No Strings Attached represents the perfect example of what happens when you walk into a movie with no expectations. You can’t walk away completely disappointed.
That’s not to say No String Attached is some sort of revelation in the romantic comedy genre. In that realm, it is what it is – a so-so rom-com with some high powered talent, a supporting cast of virtual unknowns and a screenplay that delivers a smattering of laughs.
Strings suffers from the typical rom-com malady. It’s predictable and generally before the movie is over you want to bash the couple that’s involved in the heads to make them realize they belong together. That would save them and the audience time.
In this case that couple is Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher), a twosome that step in and out of one another’s lives over the course of 15 years. Their initial meeting comes at summer camp, the one that puts them in one another’s sights come as they both end up in Los Angeles. Amazing how in the movies attractive, upwardly mobile couples end up in L.A., New York and maybe Chicago. I guess Cleveland, Detroit and Albuquerque aren’t so sexy.
Emma’s a woman who’s not big on affection or strings. Adam has grown into a remarkably conventional man despite the fact that he’s endured the breakup of his parents’ marriage and continues to contend with the almost adolescent behavior of his perpetually horny father (Oscar-winner Kevin Kline of A Fish Called Wanda or Mr. Phoebe Cates to many guys in my demographic). He’d like the relationship, the house, the 2.5 kids, he just doesn’t realize it.
He’s also remained infatuated with Emma through the years and after a quick intimate encounter, the two decide that hook-ups can’t necessarily be bad. Emma can handle it. Adam? For a while.
Things cruise along and both are having fun, but invariably someone’s going to get hurt. Is it Adam? Emma? Both?
Do we care? On one level, yes, because Kutcher (Valentine’s Day) is just so damned good at portraying the same likeable character over and over and over… And that’s part of the problem: we’ve seen it before. It may be an easy paycheck for him, but he’d be wise to try something new every so often.
Portman’s likeable enough as Emma, but after the Black Swan, a film that’s she’s a favorite to win the best actress Oscar, this isn’t exactly heavy lifting. The material is a waste of her talents.
But ultimately the problem with No Strings Attached lies with Elizabeth Meriwether’s script. Most of the humor is forced and falls flat. There are scores of inconsistencies. Is it all bad? No, she gets credit for at least trying something different. In this case, it’s Emma and Adam’s role reversal. She’s the guy. He’s the lady. It should make for better comedic opportunities, but doesn’t even come close.
Director Ivan Reitman should be thanked for at least making this a breezy experience, but that doesn’t make a film good – just tolerable. And that’s been the problem with his movies for almost two decades. No Strings Attached should have been one of those movies that possessed a sense of whimsy. There’s little sign of it here and the last Reitman film to possess it was 1993’s Dave. Maybe he’ll have better luck with Ghostbusters III.
As for No Strings Attached, the film’s title implies there’s no obligation. Take it at its word; no one should feel obligated to pay cash to see this one.
Rated R for sexual situations, language, bare buttocks, some alcohol consumption.