In his bold, confrontational book Love Undetectable, Andrew Sullivan called friendship the “pre-eminent human experience.” But in a Hollywood hooked on steamy first glances and fleeting love affairs, the “friend zone” is nothing more than a prolonged cock-tease. Ryan Reynolds stars in Just Friends as Chris, a clumsy high school fatty who, after being rejected by his best friend and secret crush Jamie (Amy Smart), escapes to L.A. for 10 years and transforms into a slender, successful music label executive. En route to Paris with his potential client Samantha James (a deliciously impish Anna Faris, playing Paris Hilton by way of her Polly character in May), the plane is forced to make an emergency pit stop in Chris’s New Jersey hometown, just in time for Christmas. Although Chris feigns disappointment at the coincidence, the filmmakers superficially revel in his chance to show off his hot pecs to the now-balding quarterback who once teased him and collect revenge sex from the best friend. Insincere and cutesy to the core, Just Friend‘s biggest surprise is that it doesn’t suck nearly as bad as it sounds, thanks almost entirely to Faris. Her parody of pop culture’s vapid idols transcends the film’s own brainless romantic plot, and the filmmakers—probably not sensing the dissonance—allow her substantial screen time. Faris sports an “I Heart Soy” shirt and talks about her “need to transcend,” going after not only obvious targets like Ashlee Simpson but pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-political celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, that represent a more systemic, middlebrow corruption among the Hollywood elite. But it is telling that just as the movie ends, Chris and Jamie’s smitten romance begins—a relationship built on promise but no meaningful partnership to make it last. It’s Paris and Paris, Nick and Jessica, Brad and Angelina. Its main character may renounce California glitter for a down-home family life in Jersey, but Just Friends is as Hollywood as they come.
- Roger Kumble
- Adam "Tex" Davis
- Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Chris Klein, Amy Smart
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