Six women enter, only two will survive! Here is my take on the six women rumored to be pursuing the two remaining roles (love interest / villain) in the Biggest. Film. Ever.
6. Rachel Weisz: She’s never shown me an adequate dark side, and she’d be too close to Katie Holmes on the love interest side. I dig her, but she’s not right for the franchise.
5. Keira Knightley: You’re not going to find a bigger Knightley apologist than me. Well, maybe Ma and Pa Knightley, but that’s it. Still, she’s not right for DKR. I could sort of see her as the villain, playing against type, but she’s not wholesome enough to nail the love interest.
4. Anny Hathaway: Here’s where it gets tough, because it’s easy to see Hathaway as either the waifish love interest or as a Poison Ivy-esque redux. I could see it, but it’s not our strongest play, if only because Love and Other Drugs proved she’s aiming for Academy Awards from here on out.
3. Naomi Watts: I’m definitely getting vibes of Vicky Vale / Catwoman from the dynamic Ms. Watts. Still, we’ll do a little better with:
2. Natalie Portman: An excellent choice as the villain, and her Thor casting means she’s ready to work big budget. Portman can do pretty much anything she wants, from Closer‘s to the hard-edge V for Vendetta.
But the best potential casting choice is …
1. Blake Lively: I know, I know, she doesn’t have the pedigree of the other actresses on the list. But The Town really showed me something, and the distance between Gossip Girl and acting like you’re from Southie is profound. She’s got crossover talent. Plus, because being considered “sexy” is naturally fleeting (see: Fox, Megan) you’ve got to cast it when you see it. Kim Basinger had “it” and Blake Lively does right now too. Everyone on the list is attractive, but Lively demands attention. And when you’re dealing with Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne you need a dynamic force. Lively for the win!
Every so often, all of Hollywood gets the exact same idea, at the exact same time. And generally speaking, there can be only one winner (See: Cop Out vs. The Other Guys). Which is what makes 2011’s battle, Friends with Benefits vs. No Strings Attached so compelling, because they both feature actors you’ve heard of, in what seems to be extremely similar romantic comedies. Below are the respective trailers. WARNING: The ‘Friends with Benefits’ trailer is Red Band and may contain NSFW footage.
So who will triumph, given there can be only one Highlander? Here’s the breakdown:
Lead Actors: If you were to seed these folks one through four you’d probably go 1. Portman 2. Kunis 3. Timberlake 4. Kutcher. So that’s a wash, we’ll give the point to No Strings Attached because Portman is best in show.
Supporting Cast: No Strings Attached features Cary Elwes, Lake Bell, Ludacris, and Kevin Kline. Respectable. But Friends with Benefits counters with Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Andy Samberg, Richard Jenkins, and Patricia Clarkson. No contest, Friends with Benefits ties it up.
Release Date: Friends with Benefits hits theaters in July, while No Strings Attached attacks in January. Portman and crew will strike first, but January is generally reserved for the films studios are slightly ashamed of. I’d rather have the summer release date, and Friends with Benefits takes the lead!
Trailer: Friends with Benefits is a much more straightforward offering, which makes me think they are playing their laughs closer to the vest. No Strings Attached has multiple story arcs, scenes, and gags, more of a “kitchen sink” attempt. Again, the win goes to Friends with Benefits.
Competition: No Strings Attached will take on a drama called The Way Back, starring Colin Farrell and Ed Harris. Friends with Benefits takes on the new Captain America movie. Yikes. It will offer a decent counter-programming option, but I’d still rather face a film not in the superhero genre. No Strings Attached gets the nod, and is now down 3-2.
Director: Friends with Benefits is helmed by Will Gluck, he’s hot after directing Easy A. But No Strings Attached is directed by Ivan Reitman. The elder Reitman has had some bombs, but he also directed Ghost Busters. Advantage: Reitman, and it’s all tied up!
Intangibles: So what matters more, top line talent or release date? Directing or the supporting cast? This is very close, but I’m going to go with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake in Friends with Benefits, because I think July has a much higher ceiling than January. Most folks probably won’t notice No Strings Attached in the cold and blustery January, but they should be primed for a date night in July. So say we all.
On that note, I hope you have a weekend full of high ceilings!
Laremy is the lead critic and senior producer for a website named Film.com. He’s also available on Twitter.