Jamie Rellis (Kunis) is a headhunter ("I prefer corporate recruiter") who lures Dylan Harper (Timberlake), a website art director, to New York to interview for GQ. He takes the job and the pair become close friends, eventually agreeing to have sex — just sex, with no further attachment — while they're on a break from romance. They both go through a few other people in the film and deal with issues surrounding their parents.
This film provides examples of:
- A-Cup Angst: Both Jamie and her mother lament that Jamie's breasts aren't very big.
- Affectionate Parody: Zigzagged. The two leads mock many conventions of traditional romantic comedies and even when Dylan stages a 'movie-like reconciliation at the climax' he says how impractical it is in real life. The movie still follows the same format and ends the same way. One notable exception is the end-credits blooper reel. The end credits just have Dylan mocking this practice.
- Ambiguously Brown: Jamie. Justified as her mother cannot remember what ethnicity her absentee father was; possibilities include Greek, Russian, Hispanic and Middle-Eastern. note
- Ambiguously Jewish: Played With with Jaime: her mother, not knowing who Jaime's father is, refers to her as looking ambiguously Middle Eastern. Jamie later claims that with Photoshop, her nose gets "way more Christian."
- Backseat Changing Room: To characterize Jamie as a big city girl who's always rushing, one of her introductory scenes is of her changing clothes in the backseat of a taxi while talking with her dad on the phone at the same time.
- Big Applesauce: New York City is basically a character and the differences between New Yorker Jamie and Los Angeles native Dylan are played up.
- Broken Bird: Jamie acknowledges herself as such because of bad previous relationships.
- Brooklyn Rage: When Jamie swears on the plane-trip to Los Angeles, Dylan informs a couple of noticing passengers that she's from New York.
- Buxom Beauty Standard: Subverted. When Dylan and Jamie are listing what they like about each other's looks, he mentions her breasts.Jamie: Really? But I think they're so tiny...
Dylan: They're still breasts.
- California Doubling: Mocked In-Universe via the cheesy rom-com Dylan and Jamie watch together, among other things that are mocked in that show ("Oh, look, the Empire State Building! Oh, look, the Statue of Liberty!").
- The Cameo: Emma Stone as Dylan's ex and Timberlake's friend Andy Samberg as Jamie's, as well as Jason Segel and Rashida Jones as the leads in the movie Jamie and Dylan watch.
- Chick Magnet: Tommy brags about being this, despite the fact that he's gay, which confuses Dylan. Apparently, he just finds it flattering.Dylan: What do you know about women, anyway?
Tommy: Dude, I've turned down more tail than you'll ever have.
Dylan: Yeah, bro - you're gay!
Tommy: But the offers keep rolling in, naturally. Look at me!
- *Cough* Snark *Cough*: Subverted by Jamie, when Dylan is afraid to climb the Hollywood sign:Jamie: [cough] Pussy. Oh, sorry. PUSSY!
- Cut Apart: Used in the intro. We are lead to believe that Dylan and Jamie are late to a date with each other. However, it is soon revealed that they are late to dates with different people, and that these characters haven't even met yet. In fact, they're on different parts of the country.
- Disappeared Dad: Jamie has no idea who her father is — mostly because her mother is pretty fuzzy on the details too.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Dylan explains after she learns that he hadn't told Jamie his father has Alzheimer's because he doesn't like the pitying looks which people give to him over it. As she then does.
- Eating the Eye Candy: Jamie and Dylan clinically do this to each other when they're stripping to have sex as Friends with Benefits for the first time.[Jamie takes off her bra]
Dylan: [aloof nod] I can work with that.
[he pulls off his boxers]
Jamie: [eyeing his crotch] Should be fine.
- Eiffel Tower Effect: The two break-up conversations in the opening define their locations using the Empire State Building in New York and Capitol Records Building in Los Angeles.
- Exact Eavesdropping: When Jamie overhears Annie pressing Dylan about their relationship and he is extremely harsh towards her.
- Fake-Out Opening: The movie opens with Dylan and Jamie having a conversation... with each of their respective lovers.
- Freudian Excuse: Both Dylan and Jamie's issues are directly connected to their parents' disastrous attempts at love.
- Friends with Benefits: Obviously. The entire film resolves around Dylan and Jamie attempting to have a sexual relationship while remaining Just Friends. Given this is a Romantic Comedy, they naturally fail and end up falling in love.
- Gallows Humor: Dylan's father jokes about his Alzheimer's:Dylan: Did Annie (Dylan's sister) put you up to this?
Dylan's father: Who's Annie? [Dylan looks shocked] I'm kidding. What, I can't joke about this?
Dylan: Jesus Christ, Dad.
Dylan's father: I don't know what else to do.
- Hippie Parents: Jamie's mother Lorna is a very free-spirited woman. She even elated when she learns about Dylan and Jamie's Friends with Benefits arrangementLorna: Why, I love it! Ooh, itís like the seventies in here. Woo! That was a better time. Just sex. A little grass, a little glue.
[turning to Jamie]
Lorna: Not during pregnancy.
[whispering towards Dylan]
Lorna: Well, not during the final trimester. But no complications. Itís great!
- Idealized Sex: Averted at first: there's a lot of direction and negative reactions, and Dylan has to stop once because he has to pee. Played straight later, when Dylan and Jamie have sex during the visit to Dylan's family, and justified due to them knowing each other quite well sexually by that point.
- The Immodest Orgasm: When Dylan gives Jamie oral sex, she screams so loud that it freaks him out:Dylan: What's wrong?
Dylan: Well, when women start to scream, it can be misconstrued!
Jamie: JUST KEEP GOING!
- Interrupted Intimacy: Jamie's mom walking in on Dylan and Jamie in the middle of the act. They are more freaked out than she is.
- It's Not You, It's Me: When Dylan's girlfriend, Kayla breaks up with him:Kayla: It is not you at all.
Dylan: Of course it's me! You can't say that! You're breaking up with me!
Kayla: It's not, it's me! I don't like you anymore!
- Jizzed in My Pants: Dylan jokes about it. He mentions that he sneezes when he has an orgasm; later, when he's making out with Jamie, he sneezes in her face.Jamie: Really? Already?
Dylan: Just kidding.
- Misattributed Song: In-Universe. Dylan thinks that "Closing Time" is by Third Eye Blind, while Jamie disagrees. Semisonic gets the proper credit in the end credits.
- Missing Mom: Dylan's mother left his father 10 years before the movie. It appears that he and his sister Annie haven't been in contact with her since then. He understandably comes off as bitter over this, particularly also since they've had to care for their father, who has Alzheimer's, without help.
- Mistaken for Gay: Tommy assumes Dylan is gay when they first meet, and keeps asking Dylan if he is sure that he's not gay.
- Modesty Bedsheet:
- A bedsheet is used extensively during the Sex Montage where Jamie and Dylan actually become Friends with Benefits, keeping all of the action hidden from the viewer. When they're finished, they also collapse in bed with the bedsheet now in an L-shaped position.
- Taken to faintly absurd lengths with Jamie, but only considering the amount of nudity that we see from Dylan (see Mr. Fanservice, below.) At one point the Modesty Bedsheet serves as, effectively, a Modesty Thong.
- Mood Whiplash: It's all frothy fun and games and witty repartee, until Dylan's dad, who is suffering from Alzheimer's, is introduced. Then the scene dives straight into awkward and heartbreaking.
- The Mountains of Illinois:
- Parodied in the Film Within a Film Jamie and Dylan watch. The characters are riding in a horse-drawn carriage, pointing out New York landmarks with rows of obvious palm trees visible in the background. Said film also has a scene that's supposedly set in Grand Central Terminal but was clearly filmed in Los Angeles Union Station.
- Averted by the movie itself in that all scenes were shot in either New York City or Los Angeles. However, the interior of the New York GQ offices were a set in LA, and although they were in NY, the Empire State Building behind Jamie in the opening scene was digitally painted in. This was also the first movie that actors were allowed on the actual Hollywood Sign.
- Mr. Fanservice: If you were ever curious about what Justin Timberlake's bottom looks like, this film is eager to help you with that. His muscular torso also gets shown off several times.
- Ms. Fanservice: Jamie has many scenes in her underwear or naked, often during sex with Dylan (though it's not explicit), and she's quite pretty.
- No Antagonist: The film has no antagonist of any kind, all conflict occurs due to Jamie and Dylan's own issues.
- Not Staying for Breakfast: Parker, the guy who Jamie starts dating after her she and Dylan stop having sex attempts to do this. Unfortunately for him, Jamie wakes up before him, and catches him on the street.
- The One That Got Away: Near the end of the film, Mr. Harper tells Dylan about his and begs him not to repeat his mistakes.
- Pain Mistaken for Sex: Inverted. When performing oral sex on Jamie, Dylan mistakenly thinks that her loud cries are of pain when Jamie is actually climaxing.
- Parents Walk In at the Worst Time: Jamie's mother walks in on her daughter and Dylan having sex. Dylan and Jamie are creeped out, but she isn't.
- Post-Coital Collapse: Used several times, with both Jamie and Dylan collapsing side by side in bed after sleeping together.
- Product Placement:
- Jamie sure does love her iPad, and both of them their iPhones.
- GQ gets a lot of shots of their logo in the movie as that's where Dylan works.
- Sony Vaio computers and Sony TVs, since Screen Gems is owned by the Sony Corp.
- The Move system for the PlayStation (also owned by Sony) gets quite a bit of exposure.
- In one cafeteria scene Pepsi drinks are plugged in.
- Race for Your Love: The purposefully cliche Film Within a Film Dylan and Jamie watch shows a dash to a railway station. The actual film then goes on to subvert this trope with a climax at the same railway station, which is low on dash, high on a flash mob.
- Rom Com Job: Jamie falls on the "Creative Media Jobs" variety, working as website art director.
- Running Gag:
- Dylan insists that "Closing Time" is by Third Eye Blind, until the final scene when he finds out it's actually by Semisonic.
- Jamie blinks when she curses.
- Dylan talks about how modern planes "practically land themselves" every time he is on a plane. (This particularly gets him into trouble with New Yorkers every time he says it in reference to Captain Chesley Sullenberger of the 'Miracle on the Hudson'.) In a later scene, this is shown to have been picked up from his father.
- Dylan's poor mathemical skills, with him shown struggling to solve even really simple problems.
- Say My Name: Played for laughs when Dylan and Jamie first have sex:Dylan: Say my name.
Jamie: Dylan Francis Harper, Jr.
Dylan: Not my full name.
Jamie: Sorry, I had to fill out a lot of your paperwork.
- Saw a Woman in Half: Dylan's nephew Sam, who wants to be a magician, attempts to do this trick with Jamie. From the box, she overhears Dylan's harsh remarks about her.
- Sarcasm Mode: Dylan's introduction features this, and both leads make heavy use of it.
- Scatterbrained Senior: Dylan's father, due to Alzheimer's disease, which launches the movie from a raunchy romantic comedy to drama in the scenes he is in.
- Sex Goddess: Jamie is extremely good at oral sex. It takes Dylan a long time and several instructions for him to give her pleasure. When it's her turn, she gets him off in seconds and acts smug about it.Jamie: [emerging from under the bedsheets after finishing off Dylan] Yeah, you know it.
- Sex Montage: After Jamie and Dylan first have sex, they decide not to do it again. However, their resolution doesn't last, and the trope follows. In the commentary, Mila and Justin refer to it as a "fuck-tage."
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: Dylan tells his sister Annie that Jamie is not his girlfriend. "Fuck buddy" is more appropriate.
- Shipper on Deck: Dylan's sister, Annie, for Dylan and Jamie.
- Shoulders-Up Nudity: Although there are some shots of both leads nude from behind, the movie avoids any frontal nudity by having shots up their shoulders or waists whenever they're seen from the front.
- Jamie's mother changes the nationality of Jamie's father throughout the movie. At one point the mother mentions a lover, who reminded her of her daughter's father, having a "Cold War" accent. Mila Kunis was born in the former Soviet Union.
- The song Dylan and Jamie bond over is "Closing Time" by Semisonic.
- While complaining about her breakup, Jamie yells at a poster of The Ugly Truth starring Katherine Heigl.
- Shower of Love: In a Deleted Scene, Jamie and Dylan have sex in the shower. Dylan complains that Jamie is wearing a shower cap (because she just got her hair done).
- Show Within a Show: Jamie and Dylan watch a cheap romantic comedy film during the movie, with its scenes being shown at different points. He mocks many of the film's cliches, while it lampshades those in the film by doing so.
- Sitting on the Roof: When Jamie feels like being alone, she goes to a skyscraper rooftop.
- Smells Sexy: Hilarious for the audience, incredibly creepy for Dylan when he tries to sleep with someone other than Jamie.
- Some of My Best Friends Are X: A version is used by Jamie's mother, Lorna.Lorna: Bananas in the refrigerator? What are you, Puerto Rican?
Jamie: That is terrible, Mother.
Lorna: Just joking. Your dad was Puerto Rican.
Jamie: What? You said that he was Greek.
Lorna: Potato, potato...
- Speech Impediment: Dylan is said to have stuttered as a child. His stutter resurfaces when placed in a stressful situation at the end of the movie, namely being yelled at and threatened with arrest by a police helicopter, while also being high up on the Hollywood sign with a fear of heights.
- Speed Sex: Jamie parodies how men act during sex.Jamie: "Oh, yeah, baby, come on, now. Say my name. Yeah...I'm done. How was I?"
- Straight Gay: Tommy is the sports editor at GQ and generally acts traditionally manly, and also is very open about being gay.
- Stylistic Suck: The Film Within a Film the leads watch several times.
- Take That!: Several:
- At the beginning, after Jamie's boyfriend broke up with her, she says: "I really have to stop buying into this bullshit Hollywood cliché of true love. (sees a poster for The Ugly Truth) Shut up, Katherine Heigl, you stupid liar!"
- Dylan's girlfriend breaks up with him right before they're supposed to go to a John Mayer concert. He remarks: "Thank you for doing this before the concert, by the way. Best break-up ever." Later, when he mentions to Jamie that his ex-girlfriend loves John Mayer, she pretends to retch.
- After Dylan and Jamie end their Friends with Benefits arrangement, they go out for a walk and both try to pick up someone. Dylan notes that the woman he noticed is reading a book. Jamie responds: "It's probably Nicholas Sparks." It is, turns out.
- Toplessness from the Back: We only see Jamie's bare back when she and Dylan first strip in front of each other. She and Dylan also both show their bare backsides. This is also used on several shots during the Sex Montage.
- Watching the Reflection Undress: Jamie is changing in the car when she's on her way to greet Dylan at the airport. She notices that her driver is watching her in the rear view mirror, and distracts him by pretending not to recognize the Empire State Building.Jamie: Hey, sir, what's that tall building over there?
Driver: (looks out the window) Empire State Building.
Jamie: No, no, no, no. No. The other one. The really, really tall one with the antenna on top of it, the windows.
Driver: That is Empire State Building!
Jamie: (finishes changing) Oh, yeah, you're right.
- With Friends Like These...: Jamie says a variant to Dylan during their fight:Jamie: With friends like you, who needs friends?