When I recently ran out of TV series I wanted to Netflix, I started adding random movies, some of which I've mailed back without watching, because I'm not in the mood when then come. But though I tend to really dislike romantic comedies, I felt compelled to do a little comparison of the two identical concept movies that came out last year, No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits (coincidentally each staring one of the stars of That70's Show). I would have watched the latter just for Justin Timberlake, but the rom-com challenge seemed like an interesting way to go.
So first up in the mail was No Strings Attached, and as he often seems to, Ashton Kutcher was cast as the guy who really is a romantic and wants to be the perfect boyfriend, but keeps dating bitches. Natalie Portman (who seems like a really strange match for him I have to say. Then again, she was less believable opposite Thor) plays the totally emotionally stunted medical intern/resident (that part wasn't very clear, particularly for a fan of House and Grey's Anatomy) who has no time or patience for dating, just wants to get laid. Yes, it's a role reversal kind of game. As you would expect, she is able to talk Ashton into the arrangement, but then he keeps showing up with like balloon and mix tapes, like a cat you snub who therefore becomes determined to win you over to its awesomeness. They decide to slow it down by dating other people and have a big fight, but then she realizes she's jealous because she actually is in love with him, but by then he's been too hurt by her and thinks it's too late for them. Enter medical emergency of a family member (I did enjoy Kevin Kline's character), our doctor character hears about it and shows up to be supportive, and everything works out finally, cue drive off into the sunset.
Friends with Benefits at least contains more of the comedy element, and further convinced me that I want to hang out with Justin Timberlake, because he seems like tons of fun, even if he is engaged to Jessica Biel and we could only be friends (I have to believe the thing about him loving Kris Kross as a kid and dressing like them is true). So he is paired with 70's Show alum Mila Kunis, who plays her role fairly similarly to her part in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which I enjoyed, so that was fine. Also, bonus for the cameo in this one by Jason Segel, and the supporting cast including Woody Harrelson and Jenna Elfman. So, the story begins with Mila recruiting Justin for a job in NYC, because both are bright and talented with advanced careers and the money to have huge Manhattan apartments (always a pet peeve to see as a New Yorker). They get along great, start hanging out, and become friends. This is all fine. Inevitably, while hanging out one on one, they start to talk about how complicated relationships are and how great sex is, wham bam, they are in bed together. This is actually kind of great for all the tips they give each other, the banter and comic realities of the bedroom. They keep this up until it seems like things are getting to relationship-like and decide to date other people, and this actually goes alright. But Mila's new guy turns out to be a jerk, and then her mom bails on her for a holiday weekend, so she goes with Justin to LA to meet his family. They of course love her, but in trying to convince his sister they aren't a couple, Mila overhears him say awful things about her. She flees, they stop talking, all is lost. But wait! Both miss each other, realize they really love each other, and because of all his fancy work contacts, Justin organized a flash mob to ambush her, and we assume they live happily ever after.
So the stories are about the same, in the way those stories always play out in the movies, but I did prefer the latter movie, which had far superior dialog and screwball comedy.
However the thing they both made me think at the end is how that is absolutely NEVER the way those kind of relationships end up. Like many modern Gen-?-ers (this is my new term for post-X pre-Millennials) I gave the arrangement a try, because sometimes actual dating doesn't seem like a real option. I'm waiting for someone to write this movie, because both times I did this, it ended with the guy (who I was more interested in than he was in me) meeting another girl and hastily marrying her, and then getting divorced a few years later. Turns out these girls were kind of crazy, and the friendship part of the deal I'd had with the guys beforehand was gone very soon, either because the girl sent a fake email from the guy telling me to go screw myself, or because the guy was indelicate enough about the end of the affair that I didn't want to have anything to do with him thereafter.
Have I said too much? My point is this: rather than it ending with both participants realizing they actually do love each other, and you really can't just have sex without emotion, it ended with the guys finding love at first sight with someone else entirely, and now being the only people I know personally of this generation who are already divorced, and I'm not in touch with either anymore. How does that happen twice? Which has to be twice as likely as the movie ending actually happening.
I'm going to check what else Netflix has in store for me tonight.