Director: Ivan Reitman
Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby, Ludacris
Synopsis: Adam (Kutcher) is in a bad place romantically after discovering his ex-girlfriend is now dating his celebrity father (Kline). After a night drinking, he catches up with old acquaintance Emma (Portman), and they begin a just sex, no relationship arrangement, setting ground rules to avoid true intimacy creeping in. Soon enough, predictably, intimacy occurs despite their best efforts.
Yes, I did end up going watching both films released in the last year taking some big name actors and putting them in a “friends with benefits relationships”. The first was previously reviewed Love and Other Drugs, which took the concept, and opted for a film more heavy on drama then on romantic comedy. No Strings Attached however, has gone for the latter route. This overall results in a much easier to watch film. This does not necessarily make it better, but it does mean that despite a similar story thread, these are two different films, with different strengths and weaknesses.
A strength both films share is a strong performances from the leading pair. You read right, in this film I feel Ashton Kutcher gives a very good performance. It does bear similarities to his former slacker cool type roles, but he imbues Adam with a sensitivity and a likeability I had not seen from him before. It is no surprise that Portman gives a good performance, she gives a lot of them. It must be said though, in this film, she has the least likeable character. In fact, this film shares one major element with Bridesmaids that also annoyed me in that film… The female lead is purely incapable of accepting a relationship in her life that she really wants but is too scared, for whatever reason, to pursue. In both films, said great guy gets pushed away, so the female has to step up the game to get what she could have had so much more easily if she has been more open at the start.
Another positive of the film though comes from the supporting cast, which is certainly extensive, and does provide a hefty proportion of the laughs. Emma’s room-mates, for a start, are a real treat. Their introduction, all fooling a drunk Adam he slept with them the previous night, is a classic. Adam’s friends, including a surprisingly authentic performance from Ludacris, are also worth watching. I will say though, for a film with Cary Elwes, they severely under-utilised this particular talent. Sure, he has stacked on the pounds, but he is still a brilliant actor, and I spent most of the film waiting for him to play an important impact role that never came.
There are flaws in this film, but in the end, it delivers what one would expect from a film with the title No Strings Attached. It is not perhaps a film that would stick with me or be at the top of any of my favourites lists, but it was a fun way to spend an evening.
3 stars out of 5.