Review of No Strings Attached

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Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman star in this 2011 rom-com about a guy and a girl who try to have a relationship with "no strings attached". Both are confident they want nothing more, but as time goes on they struggle to maintain the same disposition. Other cast members include Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig & Mindy Kaling.
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Movie Review: "No Strings Attached"

-- Rating: R
Length: 108 minutes
Release Date: Jan. 21, 2011
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Genre: Comedy, Romance

"No Strings Attached" opens with Emma Kurtzman (Natalie Portman) and Adam Franklin (Ashton Kutcher) meeting for the first time in a summer camp. They are doing what all gawky and curious teenagers do when they first explore their sexual desires and feelings.

The director smartly introduces the two lead characters of "No Strings Attached" to each other and to the audience in a nicely portrayed sexual atmosphere. The movie focuses on the sexual attraction between a man and a woman and the emotional complications that result from a purely physical relationship. It is clear that Emma and Adam are going to discover sex before they realize how love actually works. Their relationship also supports the premise of the movie that a relationship based on physical pleasure without any emotional strings attached will lead to difficult choices in the end.

The two meet again after fifteen years when Adam, an assistant director for a TV show, randomly calls all the women he knows to overcome the sorrow of his ex-girlfriend's lustful relationship with his father. He goes on a date with Emma, now a work-obsessed doctor, and ends up spending the night with her. He passes out, and an obvious opportunity for sex with Emma seems to have been lost. However, the two have fun in the morning, when Emma initiates an erotic and energetic lovemaking session.

Gender role reversal has made it acceptable for men and women to act emotional and tough respectively. Yet, the director deserves credit for letting Emma propose the idea of a sex-only relationship to Adam after their frenetic carnal session.

Enter Adam's friends, Wallace (Ludacris) and Eli (Jake Johnson), who proceed to encourage Adam to accept the proposal with almost indecent enthusiasm. Predictably, Emma's girlfriends, Patrice (Greta Gerwig) and Shira (Mindy Kaling), discourage her from a risky and unwise move. Monogamous and soon-to-be married sister Katie (Olivia Thirlby) is the total opposite of Emma, even as their mother Sandra Kurtzman (Talia Balsam) completes the whacky setup by entertaining a boyfriend soon after her husband's death.

Unlike other romantic comedies where the focus is always on the lead characters, "No Strings Attached" lets other characters enjoy the limelight. Dispersing the film's focus heightens the movie's humorous aspects. Apart from providing comic support to the lead actors, the supporting cast does an admirable job of making the main relationship seem a lot more realistic to the audience.

Emma refuses all counsel and prefers to keep emotional entanglements out of her hectic schedule. The director missed a beat by not letting the audience know why she has adopted such a harsh and unemotional outlook in her life. However, in his defense, the audience can imagine how difficult it can be to balance emotional entanglements with a demanding career.

The audience is treated to the sight of the couple making out at the drop of a hat in exotic positions and in the most improbable locations possible. The audience is invited to relate to the notion of sex being more enjoyable if all emotional entanglements are kept out of it. However, the fun does not last for long. To the director's credit, he never allows the movie to become boring, despite the plot's predictability. The audience remains entertained thanks to good casting, intelligent scripting, and smart use of humorous interludes.

The sex-only promise is finally broken when Adam attempts to take the relationship to the next level after growing jealous of Emma's relationship with her colleague Sam (Ben Lawson). A mushy attempt to express his love backfires as Emma calls off the deal. Natalie Portman does an admirable job of portraying a girl who wants to run away from emotional entanglements and is not waiting for Mr. Right to come along. That such an emotional toughie will, eventually, surrender to the power of love makes the film an even more enjoyable experience for the audience.

The entry of Adam's love interest becomes inevitable. Adam's boss Lucy (Lake Bell), who is unabashedly smitten by the male lead, helps him further his career just because she wants him for herself.

The female lead's change of heart follows, and things get patched up towards the end of the movie. Thankfully, the melodrama of Emma running away from a wedding altar to be with Adam was not part of the story. The couple confesses their love for each other, and the movie ends with the two looking forward to their future.

In another departure from established genre tradition, the movie's ending does not focus on the lead couple. Instead, it ends with a montage of scenes that tells the audience how the other characters are doing in their respective lives.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars