Title: No Strings Attached
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Kline
The two can’t be anymore different from each other, both on-screen and off. In real life, Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, who co-star together in the new movie ‘No Strings Attached,’ have varying experiences in the romantic comedy genre; this is her first rom-com, while he’s made a name for himself portraying fun-loving slackers who ultimately find love in numerous movies. In the film, Portman’s character, Dr. Emma Kurtzman, wants a casual sexual relationship with Kutcher’s character, Adam Franklin, while he wants to romance her.
In an effort to sell ‘No Strings Attached’ in the wake of Portman’s most recent film, last month’s successful thriller ‘Black Swan,’ the rom-com’s ads continuously focused on the fact that Emma is commitment-phobic instead of Adam. The plot follows the two, who met a few times over the course of their teenage and college years, as they decide to start a low-key, no strings relationship after they both settle into their careers. While Emma insists on keeping the relationship simple by not bringing jealousy or fighting into their agreement, Adam begins to develop feelings for her.
Eventually, everyone in Emma’s life, including her roommates and fellow doctors Shira (played by Mindy Kaling) and Patrice (portrayed by Greta Gerwig) and her sister Katie (played by Olivia Thirlby), sees a potential relationship for her and Adam. But Emma refuses to listen to them and follow her heart, as she’s afraid she’ll get hurt.
Screenwriter Elizabeth Meriwether deserves credit for infusing a unique idea of making her lead female character commitment-phobic instead of the lead male in the redundant rom-com sub-genre. However, Meriwether continuously reminded audiences that ‘No Strings Attached’ is her first major screenplay, as she failed to include any of the elements that make a rom-com successful. While Adam occasionally gives Emma romantic glances and tells people he is starting to care for her, he never proves his true love to her. He also wants to protect his image so much that he doesn’t want to fight for her.
Meanwhile, Emma is afraid of opening up to Adam, as she doesn’t want to get hurt. But it’s never fully explained why she’s unwilling to give love a chance. While audiences may assume that Emma emotionally shut down after her father died in the beginning of the movie, she refuses to discuss anything serious, and instead just wants to live in the moment.
Even though the script for ‘No Strings Attached’ doesn’t follow typical rom-com forum, as there are no external obstacles keeping Emma and Adam apart, and their insecurities of being in a relationship is the only thing separating them, Portman and Kutcher’s chemistry does hold the movie together. Kutcher’s ease at portraying the crazy, easy-going male lead, as seen in his previous rom-coms, including ‘Just Married,’ ‘A Lot Like Love’ and ‘What Happens in Vegas,’ helped Portman become comfortable in carrying a fun love story. With Kutcher’s help, Portman effortlessly transformed herself into a free-spirit after appearing as tormented ballerina Nina Sayers in ‘Black Swan.’
While ‘No Strings Attached’ isn’t the most unique romantic comedy ever written, director Ivan Reitman made the right decision in pairing Kutcher and Portman together. While the two are comfortable on-screen next to each other, as they appear to be playing versions of themselves, their performances alone unfortunately won’t help the movie stand out as one of their career-defining projects.
Written by: Karen Benardello