Sunday, 13 November 2011

In the Air Again: Larry Crowne and Friends With Benefits

I caught two films on the plane this week, both in the romantic comedy category (that’s all Air Canada had to offer that I hadn’t seen).

While I’m no fan of Julia Roberts, I thought Larry Crowne would be the strongest entry of the two. After all, who doesn’t like Tom Hanks, and in Larry Crowne, he not only plays the protagonist, he also wrote and directed the film. Unfortunately, Larry Crowne turned out to be a dull dud. The performances were okay but the story was not well written, none of the characters really interested me, and the film lacked any real energy or chemistry. So Larry Crowne gets a mug down and only **.

Friends With Benefits is a film I did not think I would ever get around to seeing. So I was very pleasantly surprised when the first half of the film compared favourably with the best romantic comedies I have seen in the past year. It was fresh and refreshingly adult (explicitly so). It was intelligent (full of clever fast-paced dialogue). It was filmed in New York. It starred two actors (Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis playing Dylan and Jamie) from whom I did not expect very much but who performed admirably, with obvious chemistry.

If only Friends With Benefits had ended halfway instead of moving to L.A. for a visit to Dylan’s family. I like Richard Jenkins and he was good as the father. I like Jenna Elfman and she was good as the sister. What I didn’t like was the beginning of what would be one Hollywood cliche after another as we move to the finish line, especially in a film that actually made fun of Hollywood cliches.

If it hadn’t been for the predictable second half and the predictable ending, Friends With Benefits would have been safely in ***+ country. As it is, I will give it ***. My mug is up for this one, but let me warn you that this is not a romantic comedy for the family or for anyone offended by explicit sexual dialogue.

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