Tag Archives: Bryan Greenberg

Friends with Benefits

16 Aug

Title: Friends with Benefits
Will Gluck
Writers: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman and Will Gluck, with story by Harley Peyton, Mr. Merryman and Mr. Newman
Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenberg, Nolan Gould, Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins, Emma Stone, Andy Samberg, Masi Oka, Rashida Jones, Jason Segel, Shaun White
MPAA Rating: 
R, some violent content and brief sexuality
109 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 

Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis both starred in last year’s masterpiece Black Swan, which I ranked as my favorite film of all 2010, and they both decided to follow that dark and intense film with turns in R-rated romantic comedies with remarkably similar plots about what happens when good friends of the opposite sex decide to add sex to their friendly relationship, and then explore if the friendship can remain intact or if feelings are bound to arise. Ms. Portman’s effort, No Strings Attached in which she starred in alongside Ashton Kutcher, came at the start of the year and I saw it on February 14th, six months ago, and gave it a weak B+ to, a pretty good grade for that type of film, and I said that the chemistry between the two leads is what made that film succeed.

And if that was true of No Strings Attached, that the chemistry between Ms. Portman and Mr. Kutcher was enough to make the film succeed, then it’s even more accurate an assessment of Friends with Benefits as the chemistry between Ms. Kunis and Justin Timberlake, her male co-star here, is pretty extraordinary. It also has to do with the fact that I’m a huge fan of both Ms. Kunis and Mr. Timberlake, but yeah, Friends with Benefits is on the same level as No Strings Attached, but it’s a better movie, if that makes any sense, because they both really do nothing new to a well-worn rom-com formula, but they have incredibly likable leads who have terrific chemistry with one another, and that alone carries the film to pretty great heights.

Romantic comedies these days really can’t ask for much more than that, to have stellar chemistry between its leads, because the blueprints for most of them have been worn-out. But Friends with Benefits proves that even if your plot seems to follow an easy outline that is probably dictated on some sort of 101 book for the writing of these films it’s still more than possible for your film to turn out extremely fun. And Ms. Kunis and Mr. Timberlake handle that really nicely, because after proving last year that they can give wonderful performances in masterpieces, her in the aforementioned Black Swan and him in The Social Network (which was my second favorite film of the year), they are now out to prove that they are just as good in light comedies, and, of course, they are.

Like I said, you know where this one’s going to go before it even makes a move to go there. Ms. Kunis is Jamie an executive in New York City, Mr. Timberlake is Dylan, an art director. She persuades him to fly over to New York to meet for a job interview to become the new art director for GQ. They have a dinner date, they’re both as charming as only Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis would be, then they have another dinner, and you know where that’ll go, to them discussing that they’ve had a really crappy luck when it comes to relationships lately, and then agreeing that they should just have sex, purely for physical release and without any sort of consequential emotional investment. And let me just say this, as obvious as all the steps may have been, the scene that unfolds later with them under a blanket is one that’s really well-written, well-directed by Will Gluck (who directed the spectacular Easy A last year, which I gave an A- grade to), and acted with terrific comic timing by Ms. Kunis and Mr. Timberlake.

But you know what will happen next, Dylan and Jamie are required by the rules of the commercial rom-com to fall in love, to encounter obstacles in the road to said love, to disagree, to think it’s all lost forever in the middle of the second act only to end up together forever again in the end of the third act. And, like I said, Friends with Benefits never once shies away from those pre-established genre conventions, it even embraces them and makes fun of them, and what’s best is that even those little bits in the middle that don’t necessarily require Mr. Timberlake and Ms. Kunis to play off each other are just as exquisite because Mr. Gluck has a terrific bunch of supporting players to use. Seriously, from a brilliant young star like Emma Stone (whom he directed in Easy A) to the most amazing screen veterans like Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson and Richard Jenkins, this cast is full of phenomenal actors who do their all to make this a really entertaining watch from beginning to end.

Look, Friends with Benefits isn’t the best romantic comedy ever made, but it is one that will keep you entertained, one that counts with a pair of lead performances that are splendid thanks to two young actors with terrific chemistry with one another. And, really, romantic comedies don’t really require their leads to be great actors (though these two are pretty wonderful) it just needs them to be great together, and these two are just that, and then some. Add that already winning element to a formula that includes a stellar supporting cast, good direction and a script full of fun dialogue that’s rarely seen in rom-coms and you can bet that this is a really strong bet to see on a date, though not with someone you don’t plan to have feelings for because then your date might get the wrong message.

Grade: B+


The Good Guy

15 Apr

Title: The Good Guy
Year: 2009
Director: Julio DePietro
Writer: Julio DePietro
Starring: Alexis Bledel, Bryan Greenberg, Scott Porter, Andrew McCarthy, Aaron Yoo
MPAA Rating: R, pervasive language and some sexual content
Runtime: 90 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 8.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 43%

The cast The Good Guy has is filled with some of my favorite television stars, Alexis Bledel is a favorite of mine from her Gilmore Girls days, Scott Porter is a Friday Night Lights MVP and Bryan Greenberg is currently being great in HBO’s How to Make it in America. The film, though, has a so-so plot and not really much to offer other than these three great young thespians.

I like it however that the film offers a completely different, if not entirely unbelievable look at Wall Street, telling us there are some guys who work there who live to party with the money they make from trading stocks. This is a film that doesn’t look at the Wall Street business like any other film we’ve seen does, not once do they refer to any knowledge about the trade, they just refer to the money they make and what they do with it.

Scott Porter plays one of the biggest up-and-coming guys in the business, he’s a guy that’s good at what he does, and what he does also includes going into bars to pick up the best girls in town and play silly teenage drinking games and just having a good time. Greenberg plays the new guy at the business, Daniel, he’s the opposite, he’s good at his job, probably not as good as Tommy, the Scott Porter character, but still very good, but he’d rather have a night at home eating something and then reading something before going to bed than partying.

Tommy then gets promoted as the head of it all and on a hunch that takes everyone else by surprise, because apparently you have to party to be a good trader, promotes Daniel and has to train him at the job. And then we find out that Tommy has a girlfriend, Beth, who’s the Alexis Bledel character, Daniel notices that Tommy is feeding bullshit to Beth, who’s really more his type than Daniel’s anyways. She likes to read, you see.

You know the type of film this one is then, a dumb-ish romantic comedy with this Wall Street background, which I found new and quite refreshing really, and the writer-director DePietro is a former trader so this look at traders, though probably exaggerated, may be right to some extent, which would be awesome, really.

The characters are smartly written, they just don’t have much to be that smart about I would say, but the protégé-becomes-rival-in-love situation is quite spectacular to see developed and it’s always nice to see this people, especially Bledel, make a big-screen appearance.

Grade: C+