Theatrical Review: NO STRINGS ATTACHED

J.C. De Leon

by: J.C. De Leon
January 20th, 2011

Rating: 3.5/5

Writers: Elizabeth Meriwether (screenplay), Michael Samonek (story)
Director: Ivan Reitman
Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig
Studio: Paramount Pictures

Romantic comedies may be a dime a dozen these days; it seems as if by putting two attractive people in a room, paired with a slightly funny situation, and the chemistry shared between the two will blossom into a happily ever after story. The best romantic comedies, however, bring something new to the table. They have an unconventional way of tugging at the viewer's heartstrings  by making them think about the plausibility of what they’re witnessing on screen. This is where NO STRINGS ATTACHED succeeds. Director Ivan Reitman, known for some of the great comedy classics of the ‘80s and early ‘90s such as GHOSTBUSTERS and KINDERGARTEN COP, has crafted a film with honesty, and has succeeded in telling it in a way that there may actually be people in situations similar to the ones the characters on screen are experiencing.

The story, written by Michael Samonek, with a screenplay by Elizabeth Meriwether, follows the relationship between Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) who, by several twists of fate have encountered, and reconnected with, each other over the years ever since summer camp. Adam is a good guy with a heart of gold (cliched, yeah) and Emma is a commitment phobic, almost emotionless, med student. Fast forward to present day, where Adam’s famous father Alvin (Kevin Kline) has managed to start dating his son’s ex-girlfriend, and well, what’s a guy to do but get mind-erasingly drunk and start dialing every girl in his phone’s address book looking for a revenge hookup? One hung-over morning later, he awakens in Emma’s apartment, and in a moment of weakness between the two, accomplishes what he tried to the night before. This leads to an “arrangement” wherein the two agree to use each other for sex at the other’s beck and call. But can a guy and a girl who have sex, also be friends without being in a relationship?

NO STRINGS ATTACHED succeeds the most when it doesn’t submit to conventional romantic comedy rules. Emma is the one who is afraid of commitment, the one who only wants a sex friend. Adam is the one seeking more out of this arrangement. The role reversal from what we typically see in a movie like this is a refreshing look at relationships today and what the audience will most likely connect with most. But beyond the complexity of role reversals, this movie is pretty damn raunchy. Some may be surprised when they see that it’s rated R, but it immediately begins to establish that this isn’t your normal cookie-cutter, family-friendly rom-com. This is as in your face as a sex comedy can get, but it also feels very genuine.

For folks that still have BLACK SWAN fresh on their minds, they better get ready to have their minds blown because Natalie Portman is not the virginal Nina Sayers. Emma is a fiercely independent med student who isn’t shy when it comes to sex. But this performance is going to be different for people because it’s also incredibly funny. This is absolutely her funniest role since GARDEN STATE, if not funnier (especially when her character is drunk). Most of us have seen the Saturday Night Livedigital short where she raps about drinking and having sex, so comedy has always been something Portman could do and hopefully she will do a lot more because she obviously has a knack for it.

Ashton Kutcher’s performance wasn’t bad at all. He’s never really chosen any roles where he’s able to do more than simply be funny, with the exception of THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT and THE GUARDIAN, but in this movie he gets to be funny while displaying some real emotion as a good guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and is perpetually happy with life.

NO STRINGS ATTACHED has an incredibly great cast with each cast member given their own moments that are all quite hilarious and will even give people their own favorite moments from characters beside Emma and Adam. Kevin Kline’s role as the famous dad dating a much younger woman is probably going to be one of the more talked-about roles in the movie. The film also offers another memorable performance from Greta Gerwig. She may not be a big name to the general public, but she is an actress whose stock is rising. From the indie hit BAGHEAD, to the Ben Stiller comedy GREENBERG, she is quickly becoming someone who is more than capable of nailing down a solid supporting performance, and given the chance could absolutely pull off being a great lead in more and more intelligently written movies.

Ivan Reitman may not have the strongest track record the last ten years or so. In fact, moviegoers younger than 20 may not even be all that familiar with him in general. But NO STRINGS ATTACHED feels more like the Reitman of old. It’s a smart and genuine, yet unconventional, romantic comedy, with a very different feel from what we’ve seen the last few years. More than enjoyable, it’s legitimately entertaining, very high on the laughs, and absolutely worth your time.

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  • allisonloring

    The one thing that irked me throughout this film was that these two were never really best friends. Or even really friends. They kind of knew each other and then become “friends with benefits,” which is fine, but there was no risk at messing up their “friendship” since that was never really established.

  • allisonloring

    The one thing that irked me throughout this film was that these two were never really best friends. Or even really friends. They kind of knew each other and then become “friends with benefits,” which is fine, but there was no risk at messing up their “friendship” since that was never really established.

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