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Friends With Benefits

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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Columban: Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. 
<p>After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul (modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by clerical laxity and civil strife. Columban established several monasteries in Europe which became centers of religion and culture. </p><p>Like all saints, he met opposition. Ultimately he had to appeal to the pope against complaints of Frankish bishops, for vindication of his orthodoxy and approval of Irish customs. He reproved the king for his licentious life, insisting that he marry. Since this threatened the power of the queen mother, Columban was deported to Ireland. His ship ran aground in a storm, and he continued his work in Europe, ultimately arriving in Italy, where he found favor with the king of the Lombards. In his last years he established the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he died. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.</p> American Catholic Blog Jesus was never a careerist or a glory-monger; he did not demand to be hailed as a king or lauded as a hero. He came to live among us, to suffer with us, and to serve us from the heart. He came to teach us how to love.

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