Monday, January 31, 2011

Movie with Abe: No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Released January 21, 2011

Following her Oscar-nominated (and likely Oscar-winning) turn in “Black Swan” with a romantic comedy co-starring Ashton Kutcher seems like a puzzling move for Natalie Portman. While Kutcher isn’t (always) quite as bad as most purport him to be (see “The Butterfly Effect”), he and Portman are definitely an odd match. Yet Portman excels at comedy, as has been indicated in the more serious “Garden State,” and she’s even funnier opposite the often (purposely) bumbling Kutcher. They’re an unlikely and ultimately endearing pair, and even if the movie isn’t airtight in all of its logic or plotting, it’s a largely entertaining and enjoyable experience.

While the trailer edits scenes to make “No Strings Attached” seem like the grand story of two lifelong best friends giving a “friends with benefits” partnership a shot, it’s an entirely misleading perception of the film’s actual events. Instead, it’s a much more contained, singular experience, where a casual hook-up leads to a yearning for more, and then less, on the part of both participants, who have a history but couldn’t have even been considered friends, let alone best friends, before the fact. The story is still just as engaging, and the film has a rather shocking taste for vulgarity, especially when it spews forth from the mouths of either partner’s bunch of good friends. An R-rated comedy, and one about sex at that, doesn’t need to make apologies for its content, and this one certainly doesn’t.

Though not much needs to be said about Kutcher’s acting abilities, since the film requires little more of him than just to stand or sit and read his lines rather undramatically, it is worthwhile to praise other members of the cast for their contributions to the film. Portman’s Emma is just a bit less stressed out than her last onscreen character, swapping out the nutso paranoia for some prickly intimacy issues. She’s effortlessly charming, and it’s hard not to fall for her just like Kutcher’s production assistant Adam does. Lake Bell is somewhat atypically hilarious as Adam’s zany coworker, and both Ludacris and Mindy Kaling (Kelly from “The Office”) provide amusing support as friends of Adam and Emma, respectively. The true standout is Greta Gerwig, who perfectly fills the role of the loyal best friend also searching for love, never aggressively stealing scenes from her costars but still managing to deliver all of her material brilliantly. Overall, this is hardly an actor’s film, and it’s much more about the jokes, which are generally funny. The plot is rather uninventive and generic at times, making it a humorous and not entirely forgettable above-average January comedy.


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