This past decade has seen a glut of romantic comedies, and at first glance, No Strings Attached appears to be another passable affair. However, the genuine chemistry between stars Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher adds a heartwarming quality to an otherwise-generic comedy.
Portman and Kutcher star as Emma and Adam, two twenty-somethings who share a casual relationship after a series of small encounters since their adolescence. While things go swimmingly at first, matters are complicated as Adam begins to develop feelings, with the relationship-phobic Emma afraid of getting hurt. The plot is predictable but the charm of both leads keeps the audience emotionally invested.
Ivan Reitman injects the film with a meta-awareness of the ludicrous nature of romance films while also stirring in copious amounts of raunch. However, Reitman is careful not to allow the crude humor and foul language overshadow the heart behind the film. Kutcher plays Adam with a sweet sensibility that belies the immaturity of his MTV past. Portman perfectly balances strength and vulnerability as Emma, playing a self-assured character with a fractured heart. Emma’s fear of commitment is an insecurity that is frequently a plot device in many films, but rarely has this complexity been as nuanced in a mainstream role as in Portman’s performance.
No Strings Attached has its flaws. Aside from the paper-thin plot, the pacing is a bit slow in contrast to the fast pace at which Adam and Emma’s relationship progresses. Lost in the film is a proper explanation for Emma’s phobia of commitment, which makes her comfort with Adam confusing as the relationship begins to enter romantic territory. Kevin Kline also has several scene-stealing moments as Adam’s former TV-star dad, but the strain in their relationship is explained only in allusions and assumptions.
Despite these problems, No Strings Attached is a fun movie. It certainly won’t win awards, and given the contemporary subject matter, it isn’t meant to make cinematic history. Rather, this is a film to be enjoyed for its own merits, with an appeal towards the twenty-somethings of the world all-too familiar with the complications of today’s relationships.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 (Good) — Decent romantic comedy that redeems itself with the chemistry of the two leads and the sweet nature of the proceedings.
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