No Strings Attached (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
12May/110

No Strings Attached (2011)

Andrew INDIFFERENTI'm still trying to figure out why the film industry has this weird obsession with forcing together couples that are involved with each other just for the sex.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being in a relationship just for the physicality, yet not a single one of our American productions seems to allow this to just be natural.  Now there wouldn't be much of a movie, and certainly not yet another reinforcement of YOU HAVE TO GET MARRIED but it would have freed up some of the talent on display in No Strings Attached to work with better material.

This is with the possible exception of Ivan Reitman, whose movies are coming further and further apart.  There is no indication in No Strings Attached that he has been able to retain any of his wonderful anachronisms that were on display in Stripes or even the timing and comedy of Kindergarten Cop (which is still damned underrated).  It doesn't help that No Strings isn't exactly alone in it's genre, but Reitman brings nothing new to the table.

Regardless, the table is set for the blandest of results so it's somewhat satisfying that the movie is able to squeeze some joy out of it's flimsy will/won't they premise.  The principal will/wont's here are Ashton Kutcher as Adam and Natalie Portman as Emma.  He's a producer for a TV show that looks suspiciously like Glee (not a good starting point) and she is a doctor who works long hours and has commitment issues.  The twist is borrowed straight out of When Harry Met Sally (minus what creative spark that film had) - Adam and Emma have a habit of running into each other every few years and narrowly avoid sleeping together until they finally do.

Yes, they're a cute couple but I'm not gonna whip out my Super 8 every time I see an adorable pair in the park.

I wish it was more dramatically tense than that but it really isn't.  They just aren't having sex, then they are having sex.  It's all well and good that pretty people are hooking up but it's not exactly interesting to watch.  Sadly, nothing is really done after they become a "couple" since she won't commit and he won't give up despite the obvious relationship that they're in (another excellent film that uses this same conceit, (500) Days of Summer).  So we're left floundering for air in a plot that refuses to lurch forward to it's obvious conclusion.

It's a shame because it was nice to see Natalie Portman play a girl that is playful but still has something of an edge instead of just bolting from one extreme to another.  Then there's the matter of Ashton Kutcher who has never been nor will most likely never be one of the great actors.  But here, eh, I kinda liked him.  It's not exactly a ringing endorsement but the more I think about it the more he's done a passable job in his movies - which is pretty much all that's required of him here.

Now to fill what I can only postulate is this movie's necessary quirk quotient arrives Kevin Kline.  One of the other writers here, Danny, loves the guy.  Personally, I can usually take him with a small degree or enthusiasm or leave him with a twinge of regret.  Submit that regret with some annoyance and you have the gist of his performance as a pot smoking has-been TV star who likes to screw Adam's ex-girlfriends and work out.  You might accuse Kutcher of playing his character with so much nuance that he becomes formless, but I could have done with Kline tapering back just a bit.

I watch movies to escape Glee, please do not bring Glee back into them.

The better relationship takes place with Adam and Emma's best friends played by Jake Johnson and Greta Gerwig.  Johnson is new to me but he's pretty adorable in a low-key fashion and I've loved Gerwig's sly not-quite-cynicism in other films.  It makes them an attractive couple here and there are a couple of amusing moments where the Adam/Emma relationship is clearly annoying the blossoming twosome that their friends are developing.  Similarly fun is Adam's other friend played by Ludacris, who gets in a few decent one liners by offering ridiculous advice to Adam in the most deadpan way possible (my favorite, on hearing that Adam's dad is having sex with his ex, "So you and your dad are tunnel-buddies now huh?")

But charm doesn't replace a plot that existed long before my parents decided to throw me into this world.  It's just the kind of project that you look at and shrug, the kind where couples who have nothing to say to each other go to and smile to try and feel together.  That it's partly successful is a nice accomplishment, but depressing that the entertainment industry has capitalized on this need to begin with.

No Strings Attached (2011)
Directed by Ivan Reitman.
Screenplay by Elizabeth Meriwether.
Starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.

Posted by Andrew

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