While it is more than a hair obvious that Friends With Benefits is a one-up on the plot of No Strings Attached, there are a few novelties to be found in the Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis version of the story. Mainly, once you start fucking someone, you figure you might as well just keep on fucking them considering how awkward it is to start at the beginning all over again with someone else.
Jamie (Kunis) is a head hunter (or what she calls "executive recruiter") determined to get L.A.-based web designer Dylan Harper (Timberlake) to become the latest creative director for GQ (which, in the movie, is blatantly placed in a building that isn't Condé Nast). In an attempt to woo him for the job, she invites him to take a trip to New York for an interview. When he actually gets hired, Jamie vows to show him that New York is worth uprooting his laidback California life for. This involves scoffing at him when he says things like, "Ninety degrees in L.A. is ninety degrees. Ninety degrees here is like...a hundred thousand degrees," taking him to the top of a building to show him that the city can be quiet, and participating in a flash mob in Times Square.
After spending the evening with Jamie, Dylan is finally sold on moving. From this point, it would seem that Jamie should no longer have a place in his life now that she has secured him the job. Not so. Sensing his need for camaraderie in a strange land, she invites him to a party at her apartment. Naturally, their friendship continues to fortify; they even talk about their respective exes and why it all went wrong: Dylan's ex (Emma Stone, who worked with Will Gluck in Easy A--discretely referenced when Jamie steals a sign labeled "O. Penderghast" from a driver at the airport) loved John Mayer too much and accused him (Dylan, not John Mayer) of being emotionally unavailable, while Jamie's ex (the always delightfully doucherific Andy Samberg) broke up with her for being emotionally damaged and for having creepy eyes (props to Kunis for being secure enough to have that said about her).
Friends With Benefits sets out to differentiate itself from other romantic comedies of the past few years in that it is hyper aware of how the concept of true love is viewed in the twenty-first century: Corny, over the top, and completely impossible. A case in point of this quality of being au courant is the movie Jamie is obsessed with (a made up foray into cinema called something like I Love Love). Watching it one night with Dylan, the two critique and condemn the film (fake starring Kunis' Forgetting Sarah Marshall co-star Jason Segel and Parks and Recreation gem Rashida Jones) for its unrealistic portrayal of a relationship. It is an extreme sendup of how trite this particular genre comes across, with the final scene taking place at Grand Central set against the backdrop of some palm trees in L.A.
And, by the way, another thing Friends With Benefits makes evident is that the only two worthwhile cities in the United States are New York and Los Angeles. It may be a gross overstatement, but hey, it's pretty much true. I suppose, though, what Gluck's ultimate goal with the film is to show that love is based on friendship--or at least it should be.