Perhaps the most vexing element about 2011’s Friends With Benefits isn’t that another similarly premised film, No Strings Attached, came out the same year or even the implausibility of Jamie Rellis (Mila Kunis) and Dylan Harper (Justin Timberlake) possessing the naiveté to believe that “just fucking” as friends could ever be a success. No, what’s most troublesome about the plot is the manner in which Jamie, a head hunter desperate to convince Dylan to take a job at GQ, goes about convincing Dylan that New York City is a great place to move to from Los Angeles.
When he complains that there’s no space in New York, for one, Jamie protests, “What are you, a gazelle?” Adopting all the cliches of what New Yorkers embody in being so utterly convinced that all of the noise, the crampedness and the expensiveness is worth it just to “be a part of it,” she insists on showing him the so-called non-touristy parts of the city once he gets the job offer in order to close the deal and eventually get the bonus for landing him if he stays at the magazine for a year.
The two begin at a party on the Fulton Ferry Pier so she can liquor him up and show him that stock image known as the Brooklyn Bridge. He is further impressed when a marginal celebrity cameo by Shaun White is made–that is until he threatens to kill Dylan under the guise of jocularity in front of Jamie. Once they finish there, Jamie takes him from Brooklyn to the faraway reaches of Midtown (where filming seems to be much more acceptable based on the number of movie scenes that seem to take place in its vicinity), buys him what is presumably a falafel and then takes him to a rooftop that overlooks the entire city, urging, “Run, gazelle, run!” Dylan, foolishly, can’t help but be impressed by the sweeping vista of a town that has succeeded in conning so many others before him.
They lie on the ground together, staring up at the “stars.” Jamie, however, isn’t done supposedly nailing it at convincing him to uproot his life for the promise of what NYC holds. The final stop on their destination is, quelle surprise, Times Square. Dylan balks, “Times Square. This isn’t touristy at all.” Jamie urges him to wait a moment, anticipating the moment when an “impromptu” flash mob will take place. When it does, to the tune of “New York, New York” no less, Dylan and Jamie join in, this allegedly poignant instance of unity cinching Dylan’s decision to leave L.A.
However, let us consider the more logical person’s reaction to these places Jamie touts as end all, be all in New York. A pier you can drink on? Big fucking deal. I’d rather not drown in a drunken stupor, thank you. A rooftop with cheap falafel? Any sensible L.A.-ite would take a park with to-go tacos over that. A flash mob in Times Square? Are you trying to give me a panic attack? Jamie showed him all the wrong things, and yet, he still got duped. That’s the strange power the illusion of New York has over people. She could have at least shown him a cheap bar with NYC’s signature beer/shot special to prepare him for how much drinking he was going to need to do as a result of moving there.