“I just don’t know!” That’s right, last time it was a confusedly baffled emoticon as a review with Black Swan, and now yet another Natalie Portman movie leaves me not knowing what to say. However, instead of the befuddled mindset I was left with then, now I am going with a more exasperated thought process due to my lack of ability to form a full sentence pertaining to an opinion, as in “I can’t decide how much I liked this movie,” and that confusion is definitely not something to aspire to.
The reason for this lies in the story. No Strings Attached ups the anti on the question as to whether or not men and women can be best friends and nothing more by throwing sex into the mix as a catalyst. Emma and Adam think they can do just that by agreeing to use each other for sexy time, and if at any time one of them starts developing feelings they will end the physical arrangement immediately. And if you know anything about romcoms, then you know where this one’s going.
If I based my opinion of this one solely on crown reaction then it would be pretty positive. A lot of people left with smiles on their faces and I’m pretty sure the woman who said “this was definitely the best thing I’ve seen Ashton Kutcher in in a while” meant it as a good thing. I’m about 63.7% sure. And I can definitely agree with that. Kutcher is as charming here as ever, and though I would have probably chosen him in a heartbeat if I was Jennifer Garner in Valentine’s Day, this was a far better role/performance to swoon over, strengthened by the humor and amazing chemistry with his costar. Natalie Portman gets the job of playing the girl who prefers to keep men at an emotional distance, and she does this well enough, but she really shines when she gets to lighten up and joke around with Kutcher a la the good ol’ Garden State days. This is when the movie and actors feel the most natural and comfortable with their characters. I’m not saying she needs to go for these lighter roles from now on or anything, but I do hope that those who are saying that this movie will be the death of her Oscar hopes this season will calm down now.
As ready as I was to write this off as just another romcom, the main thing that is keeping me from doing so is in the comedy. The dialog was ridiculously hilarious throughout the entirety of the film, and as lame as it is to say (even if I write the words out instead of leaving it at “lol”) I was really laughing out loud for the most part. And not in a soft chuckle sort of way; I’m talking to the point where I was having an inner monologue about how annoying my laugh can be when I let it run rampant. In addition to Kutcher and Portman the movie is filled with some pretty great characters, each one played by actors such as Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig, Jake M. Johnson, and Mindy Kaling (I’ll let you run down the rest of the imdb.com page on your own) who were able to create more than just background characters who become just as important in creating the level of enjoyment of this movie, and don’t just fill in the rest of the frame around the main characters as “the friends” or “the parents.”
Unfortunately in the end no amount of hilarity can distract from the fact that the path of this film will never really surprise anyone, and though I can say I wasn’t disappointed by it this is only because I didn’t expect much going in. And “not disappointing” isn’t exactly the bar to aim for.
Final Grade: C+
PS – If I was a petty person this film would be deducted a full letter grade thanks to one of the cheesiest lines ever filmed. I dare you not to roll your eyes or make a gagging noise. You might burst something.