18 May 2011

No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached

Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Lake Bell, Greta Gerwing, Mindy Kaling
Written by Elizabeth Meriwether
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Release: 21 January 2011
Paramount, 110 mins., Rated R

Plot: Emma and Adam try to engage in casual, non-committal sex without the relationship part tagged on; suuuureeee.

So What Are the Chances They're Gonna Develop Feelings For Each Other?

C'mon, we weren't born yesterday, and this ain't the first romantic comedy we've seen, so the film's endpoint isn't unexpected or original, nor should it be. I'll dish the ending right now: they end up together. Portman's reservations about heading into a relationship gets squashed cos Kutcher is damn charming, and the two become a couple. Duh. But see, the success or doom of any romantic comedy is first and foremost the script. You can have two of the 'best' actors working in the bizz right this second, and you hand 'em a mediocre script, you'll still get a mediocre flick. Secondly, you need good actors, two who have chemistry and you get why they are attracted to each other. The actors chemistry and the screenplay need to work together in harmony to sell this genre, and No Strings Attached - despite the harsh, ridiculing reviews scattered around the blogosphere - accomplishes just that.

There's This Dude, and There's This Girl

Portman is awesome as Emma, the girl who is obviously attracted to Kutcher's Adam but refuses to acknowledge that cos she doesn't believe in that whole relationships-can-work thing so engages in casual sex with him instead. She boasts just the right amount of spunk and initiative to make a strong character, and is restrained when necessary to show Emma's reluctance to give into her feelings for The Kutcher. No complaints here. It's a strong performance that sells the character, and instead of coming across as a cold-hearted bitch - which is entirely possible given the mandates of the story - the audience relates and most importantly digs her. Or, at least I did. Kutcher is notoriously not a film guru favorite [see: Killers], but he's likable here. I became a fan of Adam, honestly: his blunt attitude that mirrors Emma's, his charm and natural charisma, his choice of career (points to you, sir), and his resolution to get the girl. The role doesn't ask for much, granted, but we are expected to like this guy and hope he gets the girl: mission accomplished.

The two leads are joined by some funny co-stars, most notably Lake Bell (What Happens in Vegas, also starring Kutcher) who loves and loves to chitty chat to a obnoxious degree, making all her scenes hilarious to watch, and Emma's flatmates who are quite opinionated and equally frank. There's stuff with Adam's father and ex-girlfriend that's pretty funny, as well, and that subplot alone I would recommend a rental for the flick.

Meriwether's script is full of raunchy jokes and dialogue, with characters that feel genuine and not simply paper cutouts of what she feels is required from this type of movie. There were plenty of opportunities when I laughed and/or chuckled, or dug a particular plot point, etc. Hell, I loved the final line and shot of the movie, which accomplishes the hopeful/happy mandated tone but is simple and nontraditional...in a manner of speaking.

I hope I'm not making it out that No Strings Attached is a maverick romantic comedy by any account. Nay, if you want that I direct you to the quintessential film of that genre, Love Actually (complete and utter perfection, mates). The film is fun and enjoyable, with a nice script that has just enough cleverness and fine dialogue to make the scenario feel a tad fresh, and two actors that are clearly committed to that script. Later this year, we'll be greeted to Friends with Benefits with Mila Kunis (yay!!!) and Justin Timberlake starring. Both Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached have the exact same storyline - can two friends sustain casual sex without turning into something more? - and I dug how the latter film did it, so Kunis and Timberlake have a bit of competition ahead of 'em.

Rating: 8/10 = Raunchy comedy with two funny leads and a great script that nicely balances the romance, jokes, and drama to make an entertaining two hours.


Fitz said...

I figured I wouldn't read a positive review of this.

Anonymous said...

Nothing new, or even charming at all here. I feel like this script tried way too hard and just came of as annoying. Good Review!

Time Lord said...

Fitz - I know! I'm surprised I liked it as much as I did. Review after review of hatred towards NO STRINGS ATTACHED definitely made me weary and in expectation of a craptacular fest, but ultimately, ain't that bad. Badness is the Witherspoon HOW DO YOU KNOW.

Dan - Not charming? Did you not even enjoy the humor of Lake Bell just a little bit?