By Jack Rico
The modern romantic comedy ‘No Strings Attached‘ starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman is surprisingly not as bad as I expected. The film benefits from an interesting premise, good chemistry between the stars and appealing situations that will easily engage romantic couples looking for a fun time at theater.
The plot centers on Adam and Emma (Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman), childhood friends who try to maintain a strictly sexual relationship, but it’s not long before they both discover that love is impossible to resist.
The romantic comedies of today, a.k.a rom-coms, tend to be very formulaic, predictable and unoriginal, but this one, because of its R rating, takes advantage of it by being mischievous. Of course, you’ll experience all the typical ploy devices inserted into these movies such as the irritating best friends, the poppy soundtrack, and of course, the ultimate declarations of love at the end of the movie. Nevertheless, the film aims to reach adults, in particular those who have been through experiences like this at some point in their lives. The movie has shades of the recent ‘Love and Other Drugs’ (Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway), whose plot also involved a woman who just wanted a purely sexual relationship. Her reasons were different and legitimate as opposed to Portman’s character. The tone was also more dramatic and not as playful as this.
Much of the upbeat tone of ‘Attached’ comes from the cerebral dallyings of screenwriter Elizabeth Meriwether, who has built a real and authentic narrative that reflects the times we live in today – an ode to a sexual revolution that has become part of the natural order of things. The dialogue is another matter. Phrases like, “I’m warning you… if you come closer one more step, I might never let you go”, sound like scratching nails on a chalkboard. To be frank, no right-minded man would dare say something like that in real life because he runs the risk that the woman who hears it will throw up on him. Defects like these run rampant in every rom-com, but here you get over it because Portman’s and Kutcher’s charm is irresistible.
Portman, a soon to be Best Actress winner at this year’s Oscar for Black Swan, is exploring a new genre with great results. She plays a sexy, beautiful, confident woman who is not shy in proving she has a fun side to her. Mix that in with her dramatic strengths and you have an actress who won’t keep on embarrassing the genre any further. Do not be surprised if we see her in more romantic comedies in the not too distant future. Kutcher on the other hand, is overshadowed by Portman’s screen presence and skill. Even though he looks the part perfectly, his limited acting range fails him time and time again in the climactic moments of the finale.
The director Ivan Reitman, creator of such classic films as Ghostbusters, Stripes, and Twins, in this instance chooses to leave vulgar comedy to the side and focus on the psychology of the principle relationship. As a result, the film feels adult and less silly.
‘No Strings Attached’ is not compelling as ‘When Harry Met Sally‘ or as savvy as ‘500 Days of Summer,’ but it achieves its objective of being a pleasant diversion for a couples night out at the movies.