In No Strings Attached, Emma is a very busy doctor in her residency and doesn’t have time for a full relationship so she proposes to Adam to become “friends with benefits.” Adam eagerly agrees, as his friends point out, what guy wouldn’t? The two do a series of “booty calls” until the inevitable happens -- they begin developing deeper feelings for each other. However these feelings that Emma was trying to avoid threaten their whole relationship.
The new comedy by Ivan Reitman is a bizarre movie that never seems to hit the right notes. The main character of Emma, played by Natalie Portman, never comes across as likable or even relatable. The things she does and how she acts suggests that she is in need of serious professional help, and not cute and funny which I think was the intention. For example Emma tells Adam that she wants him for a date for “a thing” for which she refuses to elaborate. Emma ends up taking him as her date to her father’s funeral -- incidentally dressed extremely inappropriately. Furthermore, Emma is incapable of normal human emotion for 80 percent of the movie. She is a girl who needs medical attention, not a relationship. And since Emma, as a character, literally has no heart the movie rides on Aston Kutcher’s shoulders.
Ashton Kutcher has had an interesting career so far. I actually think he was quite funny as the stoner in That '70s Show and thought he was excellent in the interesting movie Butterfly Effect where he takes on a more dramatic role. Over the past couple of years he seems intent on playing a sensitive, understanding guy in bad romantic comedies, which he does here. Ashton Kutcher plays the sensitive guy part well, but I don’t think it allows for him to be funny. So while Kutcher injects the necessary heart the film needs, all of the jokes he’s a part of fall flat for me. He’s just not funny. So almost all of the jokes in the movie feel like duds. They come across more as uncomfortable and awkward.
Ivan Reitman started his career as one of the kings of comedy directing some of the funniest movies in movie history such as Meatballs, Stripes, and Ghostbusters among others. However the last twenty years have not been kind to Reitman as the last truly funny comedy he made was 1990’s Kindergarten Cop. No Strings Attached was a better effort that his last few films, Evolution and My Super-Ex-Girlfriend, but he just seems to have completely lost his knack for comic timing, somehow. His directing style in this movie felt mechanical which I think stifled many of the possible laughs that could have been extracted from this odd story.
I do give the movie credit from straying from some of the horrible cliches that have plagued way too many recent romantic comedies. There was no cheating and no evil boyfriends, fiancés, or spouses to dispose of before the two could be together. I think the two leads, Aston Kutcher and Natalie Portman, are capable actors and had some chemistry which helped No Strings Attached avoid being a complete disaster. It helps, too, that both actors are easy on the eyes (and for those who are peeping toms, even though No Strings Attached is rated R, there is very little nudity).
In the end, I’m not sure what No Strings Attached accomplishes. It's just not that funny, it is not that romantic, and it doesn’t have anything too tangible to say about relationships on a whole. While it is not among the worst romantic comedies, it certainly is below average and considering the talent attached to the film, it makes No Strings Attached a failure.
FILMS LIKE NO STRINGS ATTACHED: Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Casual Sex and Love and Other Drugs
Click here to buy the film directly from Amazon.com.
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.
Want more? Check out the Flicks with Style Facebook Page!