The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

No Strings Attached

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Chick-O-Meter-yellow-smChick-O-Meter-yellow-smChick-O-Meter-yellowChick-O-Meter-grey-smChick-O-Meter-grey-sm  Judy Thorburn

Las Vegas Round The Clock -
Women's Film Critic Circle -
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No Strings Attached

Last year Sandra Bullock was the darling of Hollywood. This year Natalie Portman is movieland's golden girl, having gained critical praise for her role as a ballerina who descends into madness in 2010's 'Black Swan', a film I think has been overrated, though her performance is outstanding and is favored to win her the coveted Best Actress Oscar. So I am curious to why, at the top of her game, she signed on as the female lead in this forgettable, romantic comedy. The only rationalization I can come up with is that, after taking on that dark, physically and mentally demanding role as the unstable dancer, she needed to go in the opposite direction with something lighter and fluffy. I'll buy that, but it is not a good enough reason as to why she chose “this” script.

Portman is teamed up with with Demi Moore's much younger boy toy, I mean husband, Ashton Kutcher in a reversal of the usual male, female relationship dynamics. In 'No Strings Attached', it is the woman rather than the man who is commitment phobic.

Portman plays Emma Kurtzman, a pretty, smart, overworked intern at Westwood Teaching Hospital who always has had trouble being affectionate and doesn't want to get involved in a serious relationship with any man. Emotional entanglement or falling in love is not her thing, nor does she have time for it, but commitment free sex on the other hand, and plenty of it is just fine as long as there is a clause attached. Ashton Kutcher plays Adam Franklin, a production assistant at a Glee-like musical TV series who appears to fit the bill.

After initially meeting as teens at camp and bumping into each other a few times over a course of 15 years, as fate would have it, a drunk Adam winds up at Emma's apartment and in her bed after he discovers his pot smoking father, Alvin (an aging, but always dependable, Kevin Kline) a former star of a TV sitcom, is dating his ex girlfriend, Vanessa (Ophelia Lovibond). Emma and Adam's sexual encounter results in an agreement to hook up on a regular basis, but with Emma setting the strict rules. That means being sex partners with “no strings attached”, no jealousy, fighting or expectations. In other words, though they might have a mutual attraction and get to like each other a lot, it can't go any further than just being “friends with benefits.”

It is no brainer to guess what happens from there as Adam find himself falling in love with Emma. You know the drill; conflicts, breakup, some silly stuff in between and the eventual reconciliation. I could have written this in my sleep. It is all very predictable and formulaic leading to an ending that comes as no surprise.

Although Portman and Kutcher make a good looking couple, have some chemistry, and are fine, they fail to provide the most humorous moments. Most of the laughs come from the supporting cast who fill the cliched roles. They include an adorable Lake Bell (as Adam's co-worker who carries a heavy crush on him), Gretta Gerwig (Emma's best friend), Mindy Kaling (Emma's East Indian roommate/fellow med student), and Jake M. Johnson (Adam's roommate and best bud). Also on board is Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (the cool black dude) and an unrecognizable Cary Elwes, in beard and glasses as one of the hospital doctors.

I am in no way a prude, but the totally unnecessary lewd and crude, sexually explicit references are offensive and in no way funny. To think this was written by a woman, first time screen writer, Elizabeth Meriwether! Shame on her for stooping to the likes of crass, frat boy humor Judd Apatow is known for. Instead, she could have forgone the vulgarities and built something more original and imaginative from the plot premise and created a more charming, smart romantic comedy.

Blame 'Ghostbusters' director Ivan Reitman (whose son Jason has turned into a better director than his old man) for not taking the script to another level. This is his first film since 2006's disastrous 'My Super Ex-Girlfriend' and though not nearly as bad (he even cast himself in a quick cameo role) his work here is unimpressive.

That said, the R rated No Strings Attached, will appeal to mostly young adults of the promiscuous kind.

On an interesting note, this summer another film with the same premise “Friends with Benefits” will be released. It stars Mila Kunis, who co-starred with Portman in 'Black Swan' and appeared with Kutcher in That 70's Show. Starring opposite Kunis in FWB is singer/actor Justin Timberlake who has a record album titled 'No Strings Attached”. How strangely co-incidental.

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