Helmed by Ivan Reitman (who makes a cameo appearance), NO STRINGS ATTACHED is the familiar story of a boy named Adam (Ashton Kutcher) and a girl named Emma (Natalie Portman) who are very cute together. The problem is, the girl in this picture is afraid of romance and distances herself whenever anyone likes her or gets too close. This shouldn’t prove too much of a problem since after a hot morning rendezvous in bed, Emma makes Adam keep a pact. They will use each other purely for sex, nothing else – at any time of the day. No strings attached. This means no pet names, or flowers. No expectations or jealousy. No drama. And if anyone starts having the F-word (feelings), the deal’s off.
Of course, as to be expected, things don’t work out quite the way they were intended in this simple arrangement.
“No Strings Attached” plays out in some ways rather conventionally within its genre. At the same time, there is a certain rawness to it that makes it fresher than most rom-com flicks. It also has some ridiculous bouts of humor that come out of left field. And there is at least an attempt at substance.
The strengths of the film, however, comes from the performances. Both Portman and Kutcher play the moments in a real way, with a certain intensity – not as if they are in a fluffy romantic comedy. And they share a real chemistry and tenderness. You do care for them, even if the script doesn’t allow their stories to properly develop as they should. Their friendship, in particular. And the reasons for Emma being the way she is. Still, lines that probably shouldn’t work or be all that funny, oddly work because the actors bring them to life.
There are random charms sprinkled throughout the film to distract from the things that don’t work. My favorite is Adam’s attempt to circumvent Emma’s anti-flower notions by gifting her a bouquet of…carrots. The film also features Mr. Kevin Kline who we haven’t seen in a while. Here he adds a kick as Adam’s TV actor dad who ends up with his son’s former girlfriend and is the cause of some tension.
Still, while enjoyable, “No Strings Attached” is a missed opportunity given the caliber of the talent involved.
What did you think? What are some romantic comedies you’ve actually liked?