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« In Which We Only Have Sex In Montage »

The Boyfriend Experience


Friends With Benefits
dir. Will Gluck
109 minutes

I used to think men and women could be friends. Growing up, I thought I was a tomboy because I had lots of boy friends. Not boyfriends but friends that were boys. Looking back, I ended up hooking up with half of them and the other half came out gay after we hooked up. This is obviously a pressing issue since two films were released this year on the subject: Ivan Reitman's No Strings Attached and now Friends With Benefits directed by Will Gluck (Easy A).

Jezebel was where I read that Easy A could be the next Mean Girls. I enjoyed the literary allusion to The Scarlet Letter as well as the parallel storyline this film shared with 1987's Can’t Buy Me Love, a movie about a teenage nerd who pays a girl to make him seem cool and they fall in love. Mr. McDreamy, Patrick Dempsey, played the lead.

When I see the charming posters for these films I can’t help to think, "but they get together in the end!" Any pre-adolescent sixth grader can tell you that. At the end of the movie, they are going to fall in love and live happily ever after. That’s not my only beef with these movies. These people are also way too good-looking to need fuck buddies. If you took the female leads from both of these films and put them in an Oscar worthy drama they would still hook up.

This is all actually a sensitive subject for me; I am a recovering fuck buddy. I actually had two friends with benefits scenarios. I am a bit embarrassed to admit all of this. Maybe that one year of Catholic school really did screw me up. Fast-forward 12 years later to the booty call and 4th wave feminism, add a shot of Maker’s Mark and we are up to speed.

So there was…let’s call him Boy A. Not Andrew Garfield, just my good friend from college, Boy A. Boy A and I became single at the same time and found ourselves equally horny. We figured we would do it a few times until we found real people to date/sleep with. In our social circles, we urged to keep this quiet. Especially since, okay not proud of this either, he dated a dear girl friend of mine. I was never this kind of girl. I actually had this happen to me once and I was devastated and here I was, repeating the cliché. It’s physically possible, just generally frowned upon. But we didn’t care; he would compare us to a Dave Eggers short story as if we were a literary novelty.

We got more intense. When we hung out it felt like dates. People started finding out, even his ex-girlfriend and my now ex-friend. He told me he loved me and that he wanted to make me his girlfriend. I just did not feel the same way. Everything went sour from there. We were no longer friends. We tried to make one another jealous and fought all the time. He said I was like Summer, rejecting him, fearful that I would probably fall in love before he was able to move on.

This is coming from the guy who took me to go see Meek’s Cutoff at Film Forum. Not only did he admit that he saw (500) Days of Summer but he equated himself with JGL.

We ultimately decided we would never work and that we actually needed to stop talking to one another. No sex and no friendship. Nothing. We haven't spoke since. I was fine! Thinking, "I don’t need a boyfriend! What for? Dates? Oh so we can hit it off, become sexually compatible, date, meet each other’s parents, make it facebook official, move in together, get married, have kids, grow old, and die.” Yeah not for me. But jeez, Ian Curtis wasn’t messing around when he said, "love will tear us apart again" because low and behold, there came Boy B.

Boy B was a new co-worker. He became the talk around the office cooler. All the girls wanted him and I had no idea why. He was good looking but completely not my type. Maybe my initial disinterest was the appeal to him. He wanted me. Me? The same girl who had braces two years ago.

I was in over my head. Texting, "yeah you can come over but you can’t stay over." At first, it was so carefree. I am pretty much nocturnal and he worked late. I was doing my best to keep up and was enjoying doing so physically. Mentally it was excruciating. It was one late night/early morning drunken mess after another and to top it all off, we were co-workers. He finally laid down the law: "I think of you as a friend, you’re hot and we have amazing sex together. That’s it." And that’s when I said, "I can’t anymore." Which meant ignoring texts, five a.m. phone calls and ultimately leaving my job.

With all this free time not working and not fucking, I was able to do some research. I watched a lot of Sex and the City. In the wee early seasons of the franchise, there was an episode titled "The Fuck Buddy." This was worth the 72-minute wait on megaupload. In the episode, Carrie mentions Edith Wharton and Henry James as she romanticizes New York City. Here’s one of my favorite quotes: "Your tits look really great in that thing." I recognized Carrie’s go-to fuck buddy right away. It was Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock.

My story came full circle when Friends with Benefits came out last weekend. See, I have been completely single for a few months now. With no hook-ups or drunken make-outs. Not even a real date with a guy, like where he pays and I shave my legs. I decided to see the movie all by myself.

I was mildly embarrassed seeing groups of young girls and perky couples walk in. I barely was able to spit out, "One for Friends With Benefits." As I finished a tweet about the uneventful fall line up for movies this year, a young woman sat down right next to me. There were other seats in the theater. Maybe she was embarrassed to be alone. She seemed pretty and normal. I wondered why she didn’t have a group of friends or a significant other. No woman is an island after all!

In Friends With Benefits, Mila Kunis is so New York and Justin Timberlake is so L.A. They are so opposite, how will this ever work! Within the first twenty minutes, Kunis’ character exclaims how she will show her leading man "the real New York," not the tourist stuff. So she shows him the Brooklyn Bridge, a view of the Empire State building, and Times Square. I would have taken him to a rave in Bushwick, spun the cube at Astor Place, and probably split a forty at the closest Papaya King.

Friends With Benefits contains homages to to Nora Ephron, Nicholas Sparks, Pretty Woman and of course Katherine Heigl of The Ugly Truth. I was very impressed with the opening to the film, wherein both Kunis and Timberlake share similar relationship woes as they are dumped by Emma Stone and Andy Samberg. Emma Stone’s caricature breaks up with JT because he was late to a John Mayer concert, thus missing "Your Body Is A Wonderland." But if you are going go to a John Mayer concert in the first place, you go to hear "Your Body Is A Wonderland." It’s like going to the Louvre, you must see the Mona Lisa or in L.A., you must go to an In-N-Out Burger. Is it a reason to break up with someone?

No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits share identical moments. Alcohol fuels an ill-fated relationship. Rules need to be laid down. Something like: thou shall not cuddle for too long. Thou shall not look each other in the eyes, thou shall not have time when you hang out and not have sex, e.g. meals together, movies, you know normal people stuff.

The film teases the idea of JT as a workaholic and Mila Kunis as the quirky girl that will show him a good time. But a lot of these things get lost in a cute but provocative sex montage. It was very similar to No Strings Attached’s sex montage, in that both lacked a doggy-style position.

Friends With Benefits contains a ridiculous amount of exposition, throwaway characters, and pivotal plot points abruptly dropped. But who cares! Better yet, there is a fake romantic comedy that the couple notes stars Rashida Jones and Jason Segel. They make fun of the production value and the stereotypical dialogue. As cheesy as the faux rom-com seems, it serves as the blueprint for JT to win Kunis’ heart.

A great supporting cast eases the pain. NSA: Mindy Kaling, Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig, and Ludacris! FWB: Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson, and Bryan Greenberg. However, the film did leave out the whole false pregnancy scene and the adderall inspired threesome but seriously who’s counting? And more importantly, spoiler alert: they all get together in the end and live yet again, happily ever after.

As for me? Two fuck buddies and no, I did not end up with either of them. Through my experience and a few pretty bad romantic comedies, I have realized you do not need sex. I looked into it and lack of sex will not cause cancer. Next time around, I am going to have to do this all from scratch. Let’s say I am on a real first date in the near future.

Guy of my dreams: Oh yeah, I mean, I was on again off again with this one chick but then I met you. What about you? Ex-boyfriends?

Me: Funny you should bring that up because I’ve never had a boyfriend before. I’ve never even liked anyone. I’m a virgin and I’m actually saving myself for marriage.

Think he'll buy it?

Jessica Rionero is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer and comedian living in New York. You can find her website here. She tumbls here and twitters here.

photo by drew kaufman

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Reader Comments (2)

Ok, so the math is confusing me. You say you only hooked up with half your friends that were boys. "The other half came out gay after we hooked up." So, that's 100% hookup rate of your friends that were boys. You hooked up with all of them - just that half went gay after hookup?
July 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBean Counter
Oh spinning the cube, miss that.
July 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCee

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