Thanks to Resident Connections for providing us residents with free movie screening passes! We got to see “No Strings Attached” an entire five hours before the rest of Chicago, and the theater was super packed. This made for a lively audience, which is always a great thing to have during a romantic comedy.
“No Strings Attached” stars recent Golden Globe Best Actress Natalie Portman as Emma, in a role that diverges a ton from “Black Swan”. Opposite her is Ashton Kutcher as Adam, in a not-too-surprising cute/quirky role. They meet in a series of serendipitous, random, rather nonsensical series of events, and quickly decide to have a unique relationship setup: one that is purely physical, devoid of romance, and of course, has no strings attached.
I think this movie just proves how versatile an actress Portman is. Coming straight from psychotic “Black Swan”, Portman is easily able to slip into the goofy, sweet character of Emma. (I liked how Emma was a doctor, pulling 80-hour weeks, by the way.) The rest of the movie unfolds in prime chick-flick style (our movie audience was maybe 80-20 girls to guys), with a good measure of humor and raunchiness thrown in.
Unfortunately, while this movie has a cute, almost original premise, nothing too deep goes down; the ending is especially bland. This kind of romantic comedy is already overdone, so much so that even the ‘original’ ideas have been overdone. The original romantic comedy goes like this: boy and girl meet, fall in love, and then something goes bad and someone runs away and the other person chases them to the airport. Even stories with a little twist, like “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” or “Hitch”, feel overdone by now.
At least “No Strings Attached” tries for cleverness, and its script is not bad. The audience laughed at almost every joke, and Portman and Kutcher were both naturals. There are lots of cute secondary characters, including a dog named Freckles, but that’s all they are, secondary characters. Emma and Adam each have their own circle of friends, and they are all at least well set up with solid (if shallow) personalities.
A side note that bothered me – the trailer made this seem like Emma and Adam were best friends for a long time, who didn’t want to “worry about their friendship being ruined” (Wikipedia). But that’s not the case at all – they spend one summer at camp together, meet briefly during college, and then again when the movie starts. This makes it feel like a lot less is at stake, and was rather disappointing.
Overall – 2.5/5; you’ll have fun and laughs during the ride, but the film makes little impression.
No Strings Attached is a clever, sexy, and hilarious romp of a film. Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman fairly sizzle on the screen, their easy chemistry adding to the story’s charm. Despite a fairly standard plot set-up and denouement this is not just another chick-flit rom-com. The story spans over a decade and has a lot of quirky characters to boot. I just wish the ending wasn’t so stupidly predictable.
Ashton Kutcher is Adam, the son of a famous actor who is struggling to get his TV writing career off of the ground without relying on his father’s influence. Adam has several encounters with a certain girl named Emma (Natalie Portman) who expresses her problems with emotional encounters. Soon enough they get into a sex-filled relationship without any strings, and that’s when the trouble starts. Emma can’t handle the emotions, Adam can’t handle the lack of emotions, and damnit, they can’t stand that in each other so they got to break up. But wait! They were never together so it doesn’t count as a break-up.
Natalie Portman, coming off a wonderful performance as Nina in Black Swan, shows the depth of emotion available to her. It’s impressive to see such a spunky and funny characterization come out of someone who in another movie plays a weak and sexually repressed ballet dancer. And she is wonderfully sexy in a film that demands that sexiness, seemingly without trying. Ashton Kutcher is just along for the ride, perhaps, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The sex is less sexy than the date scenes with Natalie Portman perhaps because it’s so awkward. We don’t really get the flame here that teases us in the sly smiles the two leads exchange. Also notable is Kevin Kline, who is incredibly funny as Adam’s father.
This movie has its fair share of problems. The characters other than Adam and Emma, while quirky, never really get developed. Though some scenes are genuine and endearing, others come off as hammy and overwrought. The jokes are funny and keep coming, but they don’t cut deeper than the surface, and are used like frosting to hide the holes in this film. Yet I couldn’t help but be charmed by this film: there was just something about Natalie Portman’s smile that entranced me, some quirk in Ashton Kutcher’s expression that made me laugh. It’s these two characters that carry the film, for better or for worse. We could certainly do much worse.