Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman have an undeniable chemistry in No Strings Attached, a surprisingly enjoyable romantic comedy that’s genuinely funny, and also sweet without being too gooey.
Portman stars as Emma, a doctor in residency looking for sex with no complications, determined not to end up with a broken heart. Kutcher plays Adam, a struggling screenwriter fresh out of a bad relationship, happy to get under the sheets whenever Emma’s schedule permits.
Directed by Ivan Reitman (of Ghostbusters fame), this film asks that same question that’s been put forth by so many rom-coms before: Can two people continue to have sex without falling in love? The answer, if you’re familiar with this genre, is no.
Right off the bat, the film scores points for at least putting a fresh spin on what is otherwise a familiar premise – it’s the woman who is commitment-phobic here; who’s just in it for the sex. It’s also refreshing to see an adult romantic comedy in which the leads talk like real people about real things while they’re in the sack. And the raunchy jokes in this film aren’t exchanged just between male friends like you’re used to seeing in every other film, but mostly between the lead couple who can comfortably laugh about naughty things.
At one point Adam makes a mix-CD for Emma, a “period mix” featuring songs about menstruation; and while that probably sounds disgusting, it’s one of the film’s funniest bits.
Even the film’s trickier romantic portions are salvaged by some clever writing, like a scene in which Emma gives Adam a Valentine’s Day card that reads: “You give me premature ventricular contractions”. He looks at her puzzled by the medical jargon, and she decodes it for him immediately: “My heart skips a beat.” In a scene just before this, he brings her a bunch of carrots as he receives her for their date because she’s already warned him that she hates flowers.
No Strings Attached works despite some bumpy moments, because Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves. Portman comes off as likeable, despite her character’s complexity; but surprisingly it’s Kutcher who owns this film with a relaxed, confident performance that you could never imagine he was capable of. When Emma breaks Adam’s heart, you’re genuinely hurt for him.
There’s also a comic subplot involving Adam’s dad, a former star (played by Kevin Kline) who hooks up with his son’s ex-girlfriend. It’s funny, but we didn’t need so much of it.
I’m going with three out of five for No Strings Attached. As romantic comedies go, it’s a cocktail of sweet, sexy, and funny. Not a bad way to spend two hours!