HEADS UP! If you haven’t seen Friends With Benefits, this post is way spoilery, yo!
After a typically hectic weekend, The Man of Mans and I decided to cap off our Sunday with some down time on the couch and an easy-on-the-mind type movie. We opted for the JustinTimberlake/Mila Kunis vehicle, Friends With Benefits. We’d been told it that it was funny and significantly better than its Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher counterpart No Strings Attached.
I remember having seen the trailer months ago when the movie had been in theatres. Despite the title, I had strong suspicions that Friends With Benefits would in fact turn out to be People In A Typically Romantic Relationship. Hollywood is remarkably conventional when it comes to romance. But I decided to put my skepticism aside and give Friends With Benefits a shot. I like Mila Kunis. She has a beautiful raspy voice. And maybe – just maybe – Friends With Benefits would surprise me with a new twist on the old girl-meets-guy story.
Everything I needed to know about this movie, I learned from the previews. Young, beautiful people meet and flash their teeth at one another. They build a relationship through a series of kooky misadventures and playful montages. They quarrel, temporarily part ways and ultimately realize that what began as casual sex has blossomed into lurve, because that’s what we expect of lovely-looking young people with shiny hair and impossibly large New York apartments. Which isn’t to say that Friends With Benefits a bad movie. It’s got snappy dialogue and decent performances by charismatic actors. It’s just a movie that thinks it doing things differently, when in fact, it’s the same story we’ve been told many times before about how love, commitment and happiness are inextricably linked.
Speaking for myself, I’m into long-term romance and committed monogamy. So far it’s worked out well for me. But in recent years, it’s come to my attention that, as a society we tend to validate that relationship model and ignore/nullify others. The proliferation of romantic comedies like Friends With Benefits support the assumption we’re all happier if:
- We’re coupled rather than single
- We have one partner instead of multiple partners
- Sex is committed rather than casual
- We fall in love with our sexual partner
- We have long-term, rather than short-term relationships
There is one character in the movie who has an authentically casual sex. And wouldn’t you know she’s portrayed as a flighty airhead with questionable parenting skills. And even she becomes a cheerleader for romance, telling Mila Kunis’ character that “We all have a Prince Charming. You just gotta know him when you see him”.
The movie I wish I’d seen was one where two friends decided to have to sex and actually remained friends who had sex. I would have liked seeing how a couple of pals negotiate their boundaries and the wacky awkwardness that might ensue. As it stands the discussion in Friends With Benefits boiled down to, “This is strictly physical. We’re not bringing emotion into this, ” which I don’t even understand. I mean, I might be naive but if someone is a friend, doesn’t that mean that you already have feelings for them? Things like affection, care and even love. Even if they aren’t surrounded by floaty hearts, they still exist, don’t they? How might sex affect those emotions?
I don’t know. That’s why I’d like to see a movie about it.
I’d like to see a movie about what happens if one friend or both gets jealous for reasons that other than “this person is the one and I just don’t realize it.”
I’d like to see a movie where casual sex isn’t summarily dismissed because “What are you? In college?” or because “women say ‘no strings attached’ but they all want the same thing.” FYI, I also grow weary of movie dialogue about monolithic gender behaviour. Those observations are rarely astute or unny.
I want a mainstream movie about how people can enjoy a hot, healthy sexual relationship without riding off into the sunset. Not because I have anything against happy endings. But finding one’s alleged soul-mate isn’t the only path to said happiness. People derive great joy from lives that don’t involve pairing off with “The One”. I know it because I’ve seen it in real life. I think it would be awesome to see it on the silver screen as well.
Side note: Like most rom-coms, the main conflict in Friends With Benefits is resolved when Justin Timberlake orchestrates a grand gesture to illustrate his love for Mila Kunis. In this case we’re talking a flash mob in the middle of Grand Central Station. It’s utterly ridonkulous…but I still kind of dug it.