No Strings Attached

14 Feb

Title: No Strings Attached
Ivan Reitman
Elizabeth Meriwether, based on a story by herself and Mike Samonek
Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Cary Elwes, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Olivia Thirlby, Lake Bell
MPAA Rating:
R, sexual content, language and some drug material
110 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:


No Strings Attached was a far more enjoyable affair than I initially thought it would be. I mean, Ivan Reitman has done a few amazing films in his lifetime like Meatballs, Dave and, of course, Ghostbusters, but in the last decade the guy had only directed two films (My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Evolution) which were both kind of dull. But then again, this one had Natalie Portman, coming off her career-best performance in Black Swan, so she obviously elevated the project. Not to mention that Ashton Kutcher can be quite alright when paired up with the right co-star, no matter what his many naysayers may think.

And this really did feel like quite a fresh film to me. The premise was obviously a very fun one, about what happens when a sex-only, friends-with-benefits relationship starts having feelings involved, and one that will actually be sort of replicated come July in Ms. Portman’s Black Swan co-star’s, Mila Kunis, latest film called Friends with Benefits, which actually has the original title this one had and looks even better. But yes, for now we only have this one, and we can’t compare the two yet, so we’ll just judge this one for what it is, which means, judge it as one of the most solid entries in the commercial rom-com canon of the past few years.

I mean, yes, like most romantic comedies you always know the path this one is going to take, but the difference with this one is that the very charming leads and steady hand of Mr. Reitman make the ride down that path feel endlessly enjoyable no matter how predictable the destination.

Not to mention that the script is actually pretty decent, which is surprising considering the genre it was servicing, but Elizabeth Meriwether, making her feature film writing debut, gets a lot of pretty sharp and raunchy one-liners in here. Ms. Meriwether, who has written for stage and TV before this (she actually has a pilot at Fox with Zooey Deschanel attached to star), inserts quite a lot of cool gags here, as well as a few colorful supporting characters that provide our two stars a lot of room for play, and, for a January release, you really couldn’t ask for that much more.

Now, Natalie Portman is obviously amazing in anything she’s in. Personal crush aside you have to concede that the girl really makes anything she’s in marginally better than it would have probably been otherwise, and in No Strings Attached she proves just how game she can be, and considering she has four other films due this year, then I guess we better get used to seeing her ridiculously gorgeous face quite a lot. Not to mention that Greta Gerwig, who, along with Jennifer Lawrence has to be my pick for niftiest new star to come out in 2010, is also here, so she bumps up the beauty/smart/awesome quota as well.

The concept is easy to grasp, two friends who decide to start having sex while remaining nothing more than friends, but you obviously know feelings will the arise. And, as I said, that’s a pretty neat premise for a rom-com, especially when you have a script that manages to effectively capture the feelings and emotions that would probably come out of such situations.

Ms. Portman’s character, Emma, is a med student who always thinks of sex as something totally casual, while Mr. Kutcher’s is a guy who wants to become a writer and has just been dumped by his girlfriend who’s now shacking up with his father. By this you can probably gather that the guy, Adam, will end up suddenly, in full rebound mode, sleeping with Emma, and they’ll continue at it, because she doesn’t think that highly of the emotional connotations of sex, and because he, deep down, is a romantic who’s trying to make this no strings attached relationship work out.

It’s cool how the film and these actors deal with that question, of whether it’s possible or not to have sex with one person a lot without having love be a part of it, and that’s mostly precisely because of the two leads we get here. Ms. Portman and Mr. Kutcher actually have a really rad chemistry together, and they are the ones that make this film much much better than the typical rom-com commercial fodder you were no doubt expecting. Not that this one was super groundbreaking and daring or anything, if anything it didn’t even feel like an R-rated film most of the time, but it did still feel to me like a rather refreshing film that you could go see on a date.

Grade: B+


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