Director: Ivan Reitman
Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Cary Elwes, Kevin Kline, Olivia Thirlby, Lake Bell, Talia Balsam, Ophelia Lovibond, Ben Lawson
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: M18 (Some Sexual Scenes and Drug Use)
Official Website: http://www.nostringsattachedmovie.com/
Opening Day: 17 February 2011
Synopsis: In this comedy, Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are life-long friends who almost ruin everything by having sex one morning. In order to protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep their relationship strictly "no strings attached." "No strings" means no jealousy, no expectations, no fighting, no flowers, no baby voices. It means they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever public place they want, as long as they don't fall in love. The question becomes - who's going to fall first? And can their friendship survive?
There used to be a time when sex before marriage was frowned upon, and perhaps to an even larger degree casual sex- but what once used to be taboo has now become commonplace among young adults, and hence the rom-com “No Strings Attached” should really be regarded as a Zeitgeist of modern-day relationships. It takes the traditional screwball romantic comedy, updates it with a fresh “friends with benefits” spin and a liberal attitude to profanity, and the result is an utterly charming observation of love, sex and relationships (and how they don’t necessarily come in that order) in the 21st century.
Reversing both traditional genre and gender expectations, Natalie Portman is the young commitment-phobic med student Emma, and Ashton Kutcher is the sensitive new-age dude Adam working as a production assistant on a Glee-like TV show. They have known each other on and off for half their lives, and by 30, both of them are still single and living in Los Angeles. Their first hookup happens one hung-over morning, after Adam has texted every female among his cell-phone contacts to get laid, upon discovering that his lascivious former TV-star dad is now attached to his ex-girlfriend (Ophelia Lovibond).
Pretty soon, Emma offers an irresistible (it’s Natalie Portman we’re talking about here) deal to Adam: they “use each other for sex, at all hours of the day or night, and nothing else”- no breakfast together, no nicknames for body parts, and strictly no feelings for each other. Of course, you can guess that it’s not going to be as simple; though in line with the film’s gender spin, Adam will be the romantic-at-heart who finds himself falling for Emma and doing couple stuff for her (e.g. making her a ‘period’ mix of songs when she’s having the cramps, spooning her after falling asleep from sex and eventually asking her out on a real date) instead of the other way around.
For a good two-thirds of its duration, the film is almost fearless in its irreverence. It makes no apologies for the kind of relationship that Adam and Emma share, nor at the characters’ apparent ignorance at what would be deemed traditionally as best-bets- a fellow high-flying med student in Emma’s case and a fellow staff writer in Adam’s case. It is also cheerfully vulgar in its embrace of “Hangover”-style comedy- Portman spouting lines like “Hey! Look at my dick!” and “This hole is my bitch!” with glee and ease. This is a comedy not afraid to take liberties with convention and thanks to its bold attitude, possesses a fresh, funny charm that is uniquely its own.
Of course, much of its appeal also derives from its easy-on-the-eye stars Portman and Kutcher. Better known for playing tense fraught female characters (not unlike her award-winning role in “Black Swan”), Portman reveals that she is just as comfortable playing the lead in a Hollywood rom-com. It’s not a role she will win any awards for, but you’ll be glad to know that the smart intellectual actress knows how to let her hair down and have a good time- like how her peers Katherine Heigl and Anne Hathaway do regularly. Kutcher once again plays the engaging and sincere dude with the oh-so-adorable puppy-dog look, but one has to give credit to the actor for having solid comic timing. Best of all, Portman and Kutcher share a wonderful, easygoing rapport next to each other, their mutual chemistry an absolute delight.
Portman and Kutcher are joined by an equally lovely supporting cast. Top of the list is Kevin Kline as Adam’s caddish dad, obviously having a ball of a time sending up his character’s most famous TV show catchphrase “Great Scott!” Lake Bell is neurotically funny as Adam’s unusually chatty colleague who is secretly in love with him. Not forgetting Jake Johnson and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges as Adam’s two best pals, their words of relationship wisdom for Adam among some of the film’s funniest lines.
At the helm is veteran director Ivan Reitman, better known as the “Ghostbusters” director, who at the age of 64, shows that he hasn’t yet lost his touch by bringing to first-time writer Elizabeth Meriwether’s script sure comedic rhythm that keeps the film bouncing along at a breezy pace. Meriwether’s script, which was Black-Listed when it was called “F**k Buddies”, is unabashedly naughty, has moments of genuine wit, and many truly funny zingers. Though neither Meriwether nor Reitman has the courage to subvert the typical rom-com genre right down to its happily-ever-after ending, you’re not likely to begrudge them.
After all, there is plenty to enjoy and appreciate in this fresh and funny contemporary take on the familiar rom-com. It is smart, it is sexy and most of all, it has an irrepressible verve that is just in line with its plot-reversed and gender-bent contemporary twist on the tired rom-com formula. Of course, the fact that the delightful Natalie Portman and the goofily charming Ashton Kutcher are playing the leads doesn’t hurt one bit too.
(Smart, sexy and unabashedly naughty, this is one irresistible contemporary rom-com that is the perfect date movie this Valentine’s Day)
Review by Gabriel Chong