Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: No Strings Attached (2011) TH

Snuggles and pancakes not included

What if your friends step in and say you might be a hopeless fool to pass up what you have despite how unconventional it appears? Yet, those tingling little jitters aren't there, that is unless you're afraid to confront them or are purposely pushing them away.

Fifteen years ago Adam (Kutcher) tried to get a little somethin' somethin' at summer camp with an emotional ruse about his parents getting divorced but was deflected from the unaffectionate Emma (Portman). Adam and Emma by chance catch each other five years ago at a frat party and she invites him to her father's funeral as if it's just some "stupid thing." He shares that he likes her but she's again upfront that they probably won't ever see each other. Now, one year ago they stumble into each other for the third time and he gets her phone number. From a drunken stupor about finding out that his dad is with someone he knows, he ends up at her place naked, thus starting their physical, get-in-get-out, wham-bam-thank-you-mam entanglement that comes with no strings attached, rules and boundaries included to make sure of it.

This is a comedy first and foremost, though it begins a little too headstrong and in the audience's face as there's no build up to the point-blank jokes. It's incredibly self-aware of its own ridiculousness and it becomes forced at times. Though after meeting more characters and getting an outline, this handles the unabashed and crude humor a little better as it turns over to the relationship angle. Despite the R rating--which is more for drug use and cursing--this takes a PG-13-like route about the physical side and doesn't exploit the angle such as provocative pictures like "9 1/2 Weeks" or the more extreme "9 Songs" as it's a little more fun and goofy than seductive. "No Strings Attached" also transitions between phases of growth as they continue to see each other more frequently to the point of appreciating one another and liking the stability--yet still don't use those no, no words like "girlfriend" and "boyfriend."

This starts wild and crazy and then lessens down to a mildly serious simmer that leaves the characters both torn between regretful decisions and emotional tangles. If it's not obvious enough this is going to get a little sappy for the hopefully romantic and everybody's going to end up some kind of winner no matter if it's how they planned it or even if it is who they thought it would be with. But that should have been expected from the humorous angle, as there's nothing dark or racy about this. Sometimes even coming with hip and trendy music and playing on the immature angle despite everyone's age.

"No Strings Attached" on its surface is an easy movie that's made to be briefly rewarding and give a momentary good feeling when the credits roll. It comes with some challenges for the skeptics, such as how it deals with that coincidental thing called "Fate" that relationship movies abuse too often with all too convenient scenarios. Yes, this definitely has them--stumbling into each other at the coffee shop and all--but they're a little more buried than the normal formula as some complications arise and time is spread out. This borrows some conventions, as well as goes against a few, such as the guy being the fonder one despite growing up with an absent mother but instead a playboy, celebrity dad who chases tail.

The co-stars range from token black and gay guy, to socially awkward for the sake of quirkiness if we cinema goers haven't seen enough of it. The sister adds the element of marriage and the alpha male co-worker poses a threat by attempting to step in. Despite the cliches, some of the specific scenarios promote easy beguilement to the storyline even if they don't tally up enough to make this a classic down the road. Natalie Portman plays Emma by going through a few different phases from emotionless and direct to sentimental and confused. Her character development feels a little up and down as she attempts to transition back and forth till she's an adapted person, which makes the tone of the picture go from dealing with a risque subject, to a rom-com, to reevaluating herself by searching for answers. There's not much to anticipate from Ashton Kutcher's role as he plays Adam with a big heart, which makes him spontaneous, giving and sometimes a little slow on the upkeep and spaced out, which gives him that teddy bear persona that he consistently carries from movie to movie.

Director: Ivan Reitman (Ghost Busters, Kindergarten Cop, My Super Ex-Girlfriend)
Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig, Ludacris
Website: IMDB