A movie about sex minus commitment as a relationship method of choice in life, No Strings Attached – which might also refer to the wobbly plot as it stumbles along – gets problematic in multiple ways. And we’re not just talking lust on the installment plan.
An incongruously conceived grossout family values romance, the Ivan Reitman directed talky comedy engages in an unconventional emotional role reversal as well, where Natalie Portman gets to be the sexed up guy to Ashton Kutcher’s meek lovelorn girly man. And likewise engages in an ill-advised mismatch, in which these two actors with relatively limited range are stuck playing against type.
And as a result, the exact opposite of their more comfortable fit in previous roles. In other words, Ashton’s sexual aggressor gigolo and nothing more in Spread, suited him just fine. While both perky and whiny Natalie really does indicate in the sensuality department once again this time around that sorry, you’re no Black Swan.
Kutcher is Adam to Portman’s foreboding Eve, so to speak. Though in this instance she’s Emma Kurtzman, a hospital intern much too busy for boys, and where the apple turns out to be a bunch of carrots instead. Which by way of explanation, the eventually hopelessly smitten guy presents as a token of affection, because she doesn’t want to hear about anything as mushy as a bouquet of flowers.
And the only thing these two very accidental lovers seem to share, is distorted notions of love as traumatized children of divorce. And in Adam’s case, compounded by a terminally immature television star dad (Kevin Kline) and romantic rival, who’s just stolen his girlfriend away. Or as one less than diplomatic bartender at the pub where Adam is subsequently drowning himself in drink puts it, ‘You and your dad are tunnel buddies, it’s like trading in an i-Pod for an 8-track.’
As for Emma, she freaks out at just the idea of falling in love, in which she imagines transforming into ‘a weird, scary version of myself,’ somewhat akin to a peanut allergy. Eventually the self-declared ‘sex friends’ are playing doctor all around the hospital in places you’d never imagine, but at least not in the operating room, thankfully.
Portman is just too giddy to convey erotic passion or the steamy seductive charms this role necessitates, and Kutcher can’t seem to pretend lovesick loser blues without that telltale spontaneous stud wink in his eye. As for exactly where this relentlessly rehashed plot is headed, you already know the rest.
Paramount Pictures Rated R 2 stars