No Strings Attached (2011) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, language and some drug use
Running time: 108 min.
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman, Kevin Kline, Jake Johnson, Lake Bell, Chris 'Ludacris'' Bridges, Mindy Kaling, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Olivia Thirlby, Abby Elliott
Cameo: Tim Matheson, Ivan Reitman
Director: Ivan Reitman
Screenplay: Elizabeth Meriweather
Adam (Kutcher, Killers) and Emma (Portman, Black Swan) have crossed paths on a number of occasions as short-term friends since their early teens, but they've been seeing other people in the interim. They've never officially gone out, and now with her career as a doctor in full swing and the 80-hour shifts that comes with, Emma has little time for an actual relationship. Adam seems interested in more but all she's willing to offer at this time is a 'friends with benefits' arrangement, whereby they can remain friends in order to have sex, but neither is allowed to fall for the other emotionally or it's all over. However, Adam seems to think he can get her to come around eventually, which leads to complications for both, as well as the potential to get hurt and ruin the friendship for good.
Ivan Reitman (My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Evolution), who hasn't made a genuinely good film in nearly two decades, directs this predictable and only sporadically amusing sex comedy that coasts on the energy and emotion of its two leads and a game supporting cast. You know where the story's going from the outset, so all we can do is hope that the hurdles concocted in first-time feature screenwriter Elizabeth Meriweather's screenplay prove to be funny or pithy enough to be worth the journey. It's not.
Perhaps the only twist on this oft-told modern take on relationships (Friends With Benefits and Hall Pass are but two just to come out in the past year alone) is that here it's the woman who is the "sex only" partner in the agreement, while the man is the one waiting, hoping, praying that the woman will come around. She doesn't want spooning, no flowers, no taking her out to dinner. Even suggestions by her that he go out and find more women to get laid with only makes him all the more despondent, whereas many men in a similar relationship might be out the door and ready for a night of unbridled hedonism before she could finish the sentence.
The jokes are raunchy for raunch's sake. That Meriweather's original script had been titled Fuck Buddies should tell you the comedic level she's striving for. In just a few minutes, a young teen boy is asking a young teen girl is he can 'finger' her. One of the film's so-called cute moments comes when Adam brings over cupcakes to Emma and her roomies, who are all on the same menstrual cycle, along with a 'Period Mix', a CD full of songs like "Red Red Wine" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday". As with most rom-coms of late, a plethora of supporting best buddy supporting characters all chime in with as much crude and zany zingers as possible to keep this in the realm of light comedy, and to break up the monotony of the tired premise.
And pushing toward an hour and fifty minutes, a film this predictable runs out of gas eventually, no matter how many sitcom worthy ensembles of friends keep getting trotted out to distract from the plot at hand. In the end, No Strings Attached is more one-night stand material, OK for a momentary distraction, but not substantial enough to want to spend any more time with than we really have to.
©2011 Vince Leo