Notable Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Lake Bell, Greta Gerwig, Cary Elwes, Ludacris
Review: F#ck you Ashton Kutcher. Honestly. Every man in the world is thinking that same thing after watching the romantic comedy No Strings Attached. Directed by Ivan Reitman, seeing this was a total toss-up because of his dodgy directorial past. There’s the talented Ivan (Stripes/Ghostbusters) and then there’s Ivan the Terrible (My Super Ex-Girlfriend/Father’s Day). Luckily, the charmingly unrefined and amusingly vulgar No Strings Attached fits in more towards the positive end of the Reitman spectrum. It stays off the path of your typical rom-com long enough to keep you in the movie, until the completely expected and unavoidable ending. If you’re looking for a good date movie or just love Natalie Portman, No Strings Attached ends up being a surprisingly entertaining unconventional love story.
Adam (Kutcher) is a man looking for love while living in the shadow of his successful actor father Alvin (Kline). Emma (Portman) is a relationship fearing woman who is in medical school and doesn’t have enough time to deal with the regular relationship drama. So of course the most logical plan of action for both is to become the infamous “friends with benefits,” but with rules. No falling in love, no relationship-ish actions, and no feelings involved. The minute either partner starts to develop these emotions their agreement is to be terminated. But c’mon, it wouldn’t be a romantic comedy unless BOTH fall in love but refuse to acknowledge it for the fear of losing their “perfect” scenario. Adam caves eventually and one night after spooning, Emma freaks out and demands they each try other partners to put a space in the relationship. Of course Emma realizes that she’s made a terrible mistake and will do anything for Adam, but can she win back the love of a man who she just willingly let go? Why should Adam try when rejection was the only thing he felt? Because it’s Natalie Portman, that’s why.
No Strings Attached secures its off beat funny style from the very first scene, which perfectly depicts that awkward teen crush stage in our lives. From there, most of the funnier moments in the film come from the supporting characters, who were all casted perfectly. Ashton’s two friends (played by Ludacris and Jake M. Johnson) hilariously supported all of his self-destructive ideas while Portman’s girlfriends (played by Greta Gerwig and Mindy Kaling) were just as playful as Portman. The biggest part though was that all the friends were “real people.” They were all characters who were believable in real life just as much as they were on-screen, and were extremely relatable. At some point in our lives we’ve met someone like Eli or Wallace, or we were that person. It adds a sense of realism and connection to No Strings Attached that doesn’t get mixed with the usual ostentatious romantics.
The real comedic portions come from the characters that support the supporting characters. In the film, Adam works as an assistant to a mock High School Musical TV show populated by some hilarious people. Lake Bell plays director’s assistant Lucy who is dumbstruck by Adams blinding gorgeousness, and acts like a jittery young schoolgirl who can’t even process thoughts around him. Meanwhile, she has to keep control of the young actors on the show who are constantly running around and getting in trouble, like Chuck who constantly is using his camera phone for evil. Not to be left out is Kevin Kline, the father completely disoriented from the reality of what family is for, who is always good for a laugh or gasp. He tries to do the right thing, but usually ends up doing more bad than good. It works perfectly to generate some sympathy for Adam, but the laughs are worth much more to the audience.
Chemistry between the leads is a huge component in a romantic comedy. It pains me to say this, but I actually liked Ashton Kutcher for once and thought him and Portman were perfectly suited for each other. I normally hate him when playing the same type of role as in What Happens in Vegas and Killers, but he actually seemed vulnerable and broken when Portman let him go. The other times, the couple seems genuinely happy even if they both refuse to tell the other one they love them. Portman got to go outside of the box again playing a character you wouldn’t normally tie to Portman herself. She gives off a more prim and proper vibe (except for the excellent collaboration she did with The Lonely Island), but gets to play a woman who wants nothing but pure unadulterated sex. Essentially, she brings to life every mans dream, but coming from the last person you’d expect it. Portman looks like she’s honest to god having fun the whole movie, which greatly adds to her character Emma’s personality. Not to sound too sappy, but the two had a glow that really tied them together. There’s a clever game of cat and mouse being played between leads as a result of the unique romantic comedy centering around the farthest thing from a relationship.
So, bravo No Strings Attached for mostly avoiding the normal perils of the romantic comedy. Casting deserves the most kudos for their spot on job collecting the perfect ensemble of actors to embody the roles of such quirky characters. A strong lead is nothing without good support, and that saying holds doubly true for the characters in this film. There’s a lot of comedy to enjoy and a lot of fun to be had, but it does get a tad hokey towards the end as it tops this film with a warm gooey layer of cheese. But, to create a movie where I don’t hate Ashton Kutcher as an actor is a huge accomplishment in its own, so No Strings Attached had to do something right. Oh yeah, it did, by casting the ever so perfect Natalie Portman, who was a complete delight on-screen. A surprise victory for the romantic comedy genre no doubt, No Strings Attached keeps us attached for a sexy good time.
Final Rating: 7 emotion free flings out of 10