Reversing traditional or perhaps old-fashioned courtship practices, No Strings Attached follows a couple who agree to be strictly sex buddies, then -- surprise! -- fall in love with each other. Co-stars Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher sizzle together onscreen and are fascinating to watch in this “R” rated romantic comedy directed by Ivan Reitman. While a bit too vulgar for my inner Church Lady, the movie has its heart in the right place.
Portman (Black Swan) plays Emma, a busy doctor with little time for social interactions. Kutcher (Valentine’s Day) is Adam, a wannabe writer and disappointed son of a famous TV actor (Kevin Kline) who’s now dating his son’s ex-girlfriend. Since attending the same summer camp in high school, Emma and Adam have met various times in the past, but their latest accidental meeting results in an agreement to use each other for sex with no emotional attachment whatever.
Although Emma seems happy with this arrangement, Adam is head over heels in love with her and longs for some indication that she feels the same way about him. Predictably, after Adam can take Emma’s emotional distance no longer and a break-up occurs, Emma realizes how much she misses him. But it appears that Adam has moved on. Will these two ever get back together? The rest of the movie deals with that important question. Unless you’ve never seen a romantic comedy before, you already know the answer.
With an accent on romance not comedy, No Strings Attached falls somewhat flat in the laughs department. That’s why I perked up when Jennifer Irwin (TV’s Eastbound & Down), in a small supporting role, started doing some very funny impressions. Her “Nemo” and “Drew Barrymore” takes are right on target in the movie’s most amusing scene. I’m sorry she received such limited camera time. Kline (Prairie Home Companion) also stands out in a cute musical number; Greta Gerwig (Greenberg) shows off her elegant stature as one of Emma’s roommates; and Lake Bell (What Happens in Vegas) -- playing one of Adam’s admirers -- demonstrates an annoying ability to make us chuckle nervously (I mean that as a compliment, for this fits her character perfectly).
As an incurable romantic, I’m always a sucker for a happy ending – so that’s partly why No Strings Attached worked for me. But most of all, Portman and Kutcher convinced me that Emma and Adam belong together. Viva L’ Amor!
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “R” for sexual content, language and some drug material.)
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