There is little doubt that Natalie Portman, this year’s worthy winner of the Best Actress award at the Oscars, is a fine actress. There is also little doubt that
No Strings Attached is a truly dire film.
Romantic comedies of late, in an attempt to offer something new, have increasingly taken to using misplaced sexual humour. The recent release Love and Other Drugs used nudity, No Strings Attached uses its central conceit: having sex with a friend without embarking upon a relationship, in a misguided attempt to offer a more ‘adult’ genre film. In doing so desperately trying to ape the style of the far more accomplished and successful films of Judd Apatow.
In attempting to offer a supposedly realistic approach to relationships the film’s central conceit is entirely at odds with its genre: romantic comedies are not, and have never been, realistic. They take place in an emotionally heightened world in which love is the ultimate goal. Thus a film which attempts to offer sex as an initial alternative is predictable from the outset: the viewer is always aware that love will inevitably triumph.
Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher star as Emma and Adam, who having infrequently encountered one another since their initial meeting at camp as children, decide to start sleeping with one another. This is apparently a logical conclusion as Emma as a trainee doctor working around the clock, is too busy for a relationship and is terrified of commitment, whilst Adam is just happy to have sex after the breakup of his last relationship several months previous.
Adam is improbably an assistant on a High School Musical style of show, who surprisingly enough (or rather not, given the genre of film) belies hidden depths as an aspiring apparently talented writer. He too, of course, is a man who can do no wrong: caring, effervescent, entirely perfect. It is thus even more implausible for Emma to have any issues with embarking upon a relationship with Adam: her commitment issues have no basis and little explanation.
This being a romantic comedy, the ending is immediately apparent as soon as the film begins. Natalie Portman, despite her best efforts, is clearly out of her comfort zone here: seemingly all too aware of the terrible material she is working with. Kutcher, used to this kind of fare, also does his best, but nothing can save this film from being tedious, over-wrought and completing lacking in any form of inspiration.