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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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Gregory the Great: Coming events cast their shadows before: Gregory was the prefect of Rome before he was 30. After five years in office he resigned, founded six monasteries on his Sicilian estate and became a Benedictine monk in his own home at Rome. 
<p>Ordained a priest, he became one of the pope's seven deacons, and also served six years in the East as papal representative in Constantinople. He was recalled to become abbot, and at the age of 50 was elected pope by the clergy and people of Rome. </p><p>He was direct and firm. He removed unworthy priests from office, forbade taking money for many services, emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and the victims of plague and famine. He was very concerned about the conversion of England, sending 40 monks from his own monastery. He is known for his reform of the liturgy, for strengthening respect for doctrine. Whether he was largely responsible for the revision of "Gregorian" chant is disputed. </p><p>Gregory lived in a time of perpetual strife with invading Lombards and difficult relations with the East. When Rome itself was under attack, he interviewed the Lombard king. </p><p>An Anglican historian has written: "It is impossible to conceive what would have been the confusion, the lawlessness, the chaotic state of the Middle Ages without the medieval papacy; and of the medieval papacy, the real father is Gregory the Great." </p><p>His book, <i>Pastoral Care</i>, on the duties and qualities of a bishop, was read for centuries after his death. He described bishops mainly as physicians whose main duties were preaching and the enforcement of discipline. In his own down-to-earth preaching, Gregory was skilled at applying the daily gospel to the needs of his listeners. Called "the Great," Gregory has been given a place with Augustine (August 28), Ambrose (December 7) and Jerome (September 30)as one of the four key doctors of the Western Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Loving trust and total surrender made Our Lady say yes to the message of the angel, and cheerfulness made her run in haste to serve her cousin Elizabeth. So much in our lives, too, is saying yes to Jesus, and running haste to serve him in the poorest of the poor.  –Mother Theresa

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