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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Friends With Benefits

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Viewers familiar with the slang phrase "Friends With Benefits" (Screen Gems) will pretty well know what to expect from the central relationship in director and co-writer Will Gluck's thoroughly unromantic romantic comedy.

And, indeed, this story of two newfound pals who make a pact to maintain their friendship while also sharing commitment-free, emotionally uninvolved sex entirely fulfills such expectations. The result, need it be said, is neither friendly nor beneficial.

The buddies in question are Jamie (Mila Kunis), a successful New York headhunter, and Dylan (Justin Timberlake), the formerly L.A.-based art director she recently recruited for a job in Gotham.

Dylan's new employer is Sports Illustrated, and we're meant to be tickled when, practically on arrival for his first day of work there, he's invited on a gay debauch by out-of-the-closet and in-your-face colleague Tommy (Woody Harrelson). For all his self-acceptance, Tommy, it seems, has yet to liberate himself from the cliched assumption that all artsy men must be light in their loafers.

But back to our hotshot heterosexuals. Though both are doing well professionally, the opening scenes have demonstrated Jamie and Dylan's shared frustration with the urban dating scene, thus paving the way for the titular arrangement. Since "sometimes you just need it," they agree, sex should be approached "like tennis."

Inevitably, the script—on which Gluck collaborated with Keith Merryman and David A. Newman—brings the pair somewhat to their senses on this score. But not before treating the audience to excessively detailed bedroom scenes and dialogue replete with obscenities.

Nor does the eventual nod to true love compensate for a frivolous view of human sexuality that embraces not only the main duo's initial experimentation and Tommy's blithely referenced lifestyle, but the played-for-laughs promiscuity of Jamie's mom, Lorna (Patricia Clarkson).

Lorna—to whom we're first introduced when she suddenly interrupts Dylan and her daughter in flagrante—never can seem to remember which of her innumerable partners was, in fact, Jamie's father.

Lost amid all this carnal chaos is some occasionally witty patter and a stab at seriousness from Richard Jenkins in the role of Dylan's Alzheimer's-afflicted dad.

The film contains strong sexual content including graphic nonmarital sexual activity, rear nudity, pervasive sexual and some irreverent humor as well as relentless rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Alphonsus Rodriguez: Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer. 
<p>Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation. </p><p>Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. </p><p>His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems. </p><p>Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.</p> American Catholic Blog People mess up, and it’s especially hard to watch as our children and other young people go down paths we know are likely to lead to heartbreak. Providing gentle guidance when it’s needed, and love even when that guidance isn’t followed, helps them to start fresh.

 
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