A somewhat sexy, if formulaic, romcom with a few laughs attached
Director Ivan Reitman follows the Hollywood chick-flick formula by using big names with pretty faces to sell his romantic comedy. This time around, it’s Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher who are responsible for wooing us with their hotness. When I first heard they’d be playing romantic opposites, I didn’t know what to expect. Portman is generally associated with less-formulaic films (see her critically acclaimed performances for films such as V for Vendetta and Black Swan), while Kutcher is famous for pranking celebrities on MTV. Initially, I had high and low expectations all at once, but my post-screening outlook balanced itself somewhere near the middle, settling on the sunny side.
Most movie-goers might be satisfied with coming to this conclusion: It was a decent movie that didn’t feel like a waste of time. But I needed to know why this seemingly mediocre movie actually succeeded, and I think I got it: No Strings Attached isn’t trying to be clever, so it doesn’t really have much to lose. It doesn’t take much analysis to see it’s a by-the-numbers romcom, with all the typical components. With all its wisecracks about sex, it plays with the same immature humor we’ve heard before, but remains universally entertaining. Even if you’re someone who might roll your eyes at all the references it makes about “dick,” you’ll probably laugh a little too.
Even Portman jumps on the raunchy humor bandwagon, and shows glimpses of her comedic abilities. (Anyone who’s seen her SNL digital short spoofing gansta rap knows what I’m talking about.)
To its credit the film makes full use of its stars. Lifelong friends Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) decide to use each other strictly for sex, without letting all the mushiness that actual feelings bring into a relationship, and since this is a romcom, you can guess where that goes. But as sexy as the premise is, the plot doesn’t exploit the sexual themes too graphically, even with the R rating. Sure, there’s a sexy montage of Adam and Emma getting’ busy all over the place, but it’s more funny than hot. Well, maybe it’s a little hot.
It’s hard to judge the film on the predictability of the plot since that’s such a characteristic, and effective, approach to the genre. But I am going to judge it for its sentimentality. While the good romcoms try to draw a fine line between romanticism and flat-out sappiness, Strings doesn’t as it pours on the cheese when establishing the overly dramatic “but-I-think-I’m-actually-falling-in-love-with-you” moments.
However, the characters were endearing enough for me to shake off my temporary cringes.
Is it a great movie? Of course not. But it’s a decent popcorn flick that provides mild entertainment for the young and hopelessly romantic. Go see it with a friend, but not one who you share “benefits” with. He or she might be scared away by the themes of love and commitment that ultimately, and predictably, play out.