‘Friends with Benefits’ and the quarterly notes on hooking up

July 25, 2011

Saturday, I caught Alexandra Petri’s play “hookups” at Fringe Festival and then later, “Friends with Benefits” (in between, I went to a party at my friend Mike’s; I did not hook up with anyone for thematic consistency).

Quick shot: See FWB! It’s very funny, although it is one where you can actually see, like, the giant Mario-glove hand stamping a B+ upon the whole watching experience. I doubt I’ll ever be like, you know what I’m really in the mood to watch? FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, and Netflix/Red Box/imagine it for free in my head. But: Kunis and Timberlake (who is better than expected) have excellent chemistry, according to my brother this was better than “No Strings Attached,” and we were repeating lines from it all day.

Under the jump here, some thoughts on the hooking up and FWB.

Despite the writer overabundance here, Will Gluck and David Newman settled down a little more than “Easy A.” They hit much nearer the HOOK-UP CULTURE (IS A TERRIBLE PHRASE) than most efforts of late have.

Timberlake and Kunis’s characters get into trouble when they sleep together sort of outside the bounds of the rules they’ve set up, for instance. Uncertainty enters the landscape and there it unravels (…with loo000ooove). I can’t remember if I talked about this in the Coffee & Markets podcast — I know I had it in some notes (I took notes on hooking up before that podcast, really, because I am so overflowing with cool) — but one of the ways creative media still isn’t capturing the climate is the emphasis on formal arrangement, rather than haphazard “well that happened.”

“No Strings Attached” and “Friends with Benefits” start up with spoken, sort of exclusive — if casual sex — plans. There are terms and stipulations and it all might as well be the Second Treaty of Paris compared to the way this actually works in real life.

I still await a certain collection of scenes onscreen. They are:

  1. The Post-Game Chess Game Parsing of Intentions, in which everyone is just ever so careful not to say the improper thing while assessing the situation at hand.
  2. The Post-Chess-Game Parsing of Words with a. Same-gendered friends, then b. One opposite gendered friend.
  3. Dealing with the Friend Circle issues where one of these participants has hooked up with one of the aforementioned 2.a same-gendered friends.
  4. The subsequent period of deep Facebook Stalking, also practiced by the 2.a group of same-gendered friends, if female.
  5. Text message analysis that “Ulysses” will never receive.

But that’s not jumping from real life to creative media. This might be because the creators there are actually a little beyond the reaches of that (or the reaches of how pervasive it is), the logical extension of which is actually thoroughly depressing: By the time that jumps into a commercial romantic comedy it will be dated, and we will be old.

Those are also very passive scenes — just people standing around talking. Sadly, this is how it goes with us.

That should be a challenge, though, rather than a limitation. There is, for instance, an enormous amount of imaginary subtext that girls just dole out in these conversations where somebody really needs to be like, “Look, ho, I can’t even. No, the answer’s no.” Nobody wants to say that, of course, so: tension. But, with a visual medium and here let’s give “(500) Days of Summer” a firm handshake and a pat on the back for throwing around a few admittedly gimmicky ways to tackle “Someone creating subtext.” There are funny ways to do this act out hypotheticals in a visual medium (rather than a forlorn “He’s Just Not That into You and I’m Sorry on Behalf of Women, For Existing” way).

Now the woe-begone tale of most hook-up stories might not really get the Hollywood ending anyone’s looking for, but that existing CLIMATE needs to be addressed as grounds for Romancing in a Comedic Fashion — or else more B+ FWB movies is the best we’ll do.

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