Review: No Strings Attached
PLOT: Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are friends who decide to enter into a sex-only relationship. Of course, love complicates the matter with one of the two predictably falling in love with the other despite their strict rules against such tom-foolery.
REVIEW: Its been awhile since Ive seen a new romantic comedy that I could watch -- nay endure. Sure there have been great movies wherein the rom-com is shoe-horned into a different genre altogether -- hello, ZOMBIELAND! -- but a real-deal rom-com thats just unapologetically about love and relationships? Its been awhile.
Much to my surprise, NO STRINGS ATTACHED has put an end to that desert of emotion. Sure, you quickly and rightly suspect that stars Natalie Portman (Emma) and Ashton Kutcher (Adam) will end up together, but the movie makes up for any predictability by adding a dash of realism that calls the genre on its propensity to b.s. the audience into believing relationships, make-ups, and break-ups are so simple.
Whats most refreshing about NO STRINGS ATTACHED is that its a romantic comedy about two grown-ups who act like self-fulfilled adults. Tired of the rom-com staple of a leading lady who must choose between her job and love because her workaholic ways keep her from realizing that her ladyparts need some attention of their own? Gone. In its place is Portman portraying a medical intern who has a firm hold of her work and life; shes just afraid of relationships because breaking-up hurts. As for the other rom-com cliche of the leading man whos equal parts manly man and man-child, hes replaced by Kutcher as a production assistant/aspiring staff writer on a Glee-knock-off who is also smart and has a hold on his life -- well, except when it comes to getting out from under his fathers shadow. Theyre just two normal people dealing with love and how terrifying it is, while the laughs come from their reactions and interactions with friends.
Now, I know what youre thinking. Youre thinking I have no taste because a. youve seen the trailers and theyre horrible and b. Im a woman. Well, heres why youre wrong: for reasons I dont understand, whomever was in charge of cutting the trailers did a terrible job. Dialogue from different parts of the movie and cut scenes seem to have been pieced together to create lines that never happened (but which youd expect of cliche rom-coms) and some scenes in the trailer just have completely different dialogue playing over them -- stuff that doesnt happen in the movie. Whatever movie the trailers are advertising, I hate. But NO STRINGS ATTACHED, I loved. As for your second thought, which is that you cant trust my opinion because Im a woman... well, if you think that then youre probably right. If youre the type of person to write off my opinion because Im a woman, youll never understand what it is about NO STRINGS ATTACHED female-sympathetic perspective that makes it so great and so real.
Portman redefines adorable in a role that could have devolved into a one-note Magical Pixie Dream Girl but which she plays with nuance and brash gusto for life. If you dont love her reenactment of a man standing in a room waving his penis around while shouting, then you must not love much in life. As for Kutcher, hes charmingly likable without coming off as too-stupid-to-live or too-douchey-to-date. Its hard not to feel like, halfway through the film, you really are watching two people fall in love, or rather try not to, thanks to the pairs budding chemistry.
The rest of the cast balances out the film, without taking too much away from the main story at hand. Mindy Kaling is sexy and fun as one of Emmas roomies/fellow interns and Lake Bell steals the show as a high-strung potential love interest.
For me, as a woman, it was satisfying and heart-warming to finally watch a rom-com that was sympathetic to women and the way we view relationships, which is not how 80 percent of rom-coms like to think we do -- and yes, plenty of female screenwriters have been guilty of perpetuating myths and made-up rules about women and love (e.g. you can only have career success or a man to love). Still, it was great to see a film that was fun, funny, and feminist. Emma gets to stay a doctor and get the guy she loves? Yes! Adam isnt a man-child that Emma has to babysit for the rest of her life? Hurrah! They both love each other and respect each other? Cheers!
I do have my critiques of the film, though. Sometimes I felt that NO STRINGS ATTACHED pulled a few of its punches, stopping just short of being the movie it could be in the first half. But at some point after, the film went for it and took me along for the ride. There also could have been a bit more Cary Elwes (but I hold that opinion about every movie hes in) as the respected doctor at Emmas hospital, and more of Kaling and Emmas other roommate, Guy (Guy Branum). While not a perfect film, and not the best romantic comedy in history, NO STRINGS ATTACHED is a change of pace that reminds me the genre is anything but dead or cliche past the point of return.