No Strings Attached (2011)
No Strings Attached (2011)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.

Release Date: January 21st, 2011 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Ivan Reitman Actors: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Kevin Kline, Ophelia Lovibond, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby




mmediately after the success of “Black Swan,” her Golden Globe Best Actress win, an inevitable Academy Award nomination, and worldwide critical praise, Natalie Portman decided to star with Ashton Kutcher in a raunchy sex comedy/drama. The fact that renowned filmmaker Ivan Reitman (“Meatballs,” “Ghostbusters”) was attached to direct doesn’t give legitimacy to the project, since it was funded by Portman’s own production company. It seems the popular star is trying everything possible to shed her “good girl” image; despite her breakout role in “The Professional” and her riskier performances in “V for Vendetta” and “Closer,” she still can’t run from the Queen Amidala part. She strips away more clothes for “No Strings Attached,” but reveals the same level of nothing as usual – perhaps her blatant “no nudity clause” is one of the reasons she can’t escape her past. She can only hope this movie doesn’t have the same disastrous effect “Norbit” had on Eddie Murphy’s shot at a 2006 Oscar (for “Dreamgirls”).

Adam Franklin (Ashton Kutcher) and Emma Kurtzman (Natalie Portman) have always been a little odd, outcasts in their own minds as youths when they first met at a camp. Years pass and they continue to meet randomly as they grow up, realizing they have an undeniable yet unnamable attraction towards one other. When Adam’s father (Kevin Kline) decides to date Vanessa (Ophelia Lovibond), a sexy young woman who just broke up with Adam, the understandably upset son drunkenly calls every person in his phone until someone agrees to sleep with him. He awakes the following morning naked, in Emma’s apartment, and with no recollection of the previous night’s events.

This leads to a “friends with benefits” scenario in which Emma only wants to have a physical relationship with Adam. And she’s not afraid to speak plainly, openly, and confidently about their affair, minded with using crass definitions. His friends Eli (Jake Johnson) and Wallace (Ludacris) think he’s struck gold, but Adam realizes he’s falling in love with Emma, an unattainable girl thanks to daddy issues and her seemingly all-consuming, intellectual work as a doctor in training. Cary Elwes receives fourth billing with a nearly wordless cameo, Lake Bell presents a possible love triangle, and Ben Lawson is a potential rival with only a single scene to support that notion – just about every supporting role is poorly written and thrown in for pitiable comic relief.

Sadly, “No Strings Attached” is just an average raunchy sex comedy, lacking likeable characters, plausibility, and general funniness. No scene is outrageous, no performance is shocking, and no line of dialogue is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Portman seems like an unlikely candidate for this kind of role, which is probably what she was hoping for, but it doesn’t aid her while shamelessly failing at romantic chemistry and the delivery of uncomfortable dialogue. “That just felt wrong,” mumbles Adam as he reluctantly pulls away from cuddling with Emma, pegging the problem with “No Strings Attached” – through unintentional, unrelated words. Much of the film is like a series of simple jokes compiled together with scenes built around them for the sake of inclusion. It’s a fake, stodgy, pointless love story that begins exactly as expected and ends with the same level of surprise-free blandness.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10