Thursday 17 February 2022

Movie Review: No Strings Attached (2011)

A clunky romantic comedy, No Strings Attached combines a clumsy premise with cursory characters and a cluttered cast.

Friends since childhood, Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) meet again in their twenties. She is a medical student and not interested in a relationship. He is a television show production assistant. They agree to be sex friends with no commitments.

But Adam does care for Emma and develops an emotional attachment. He is also dealing with the awkward complication of his father Alvin (Kevin Kline), a famous television personality, now dating Adam's ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Ophelia Lovibond). When Emma's sister Katie (Olivia Thirlby) announces her wedding plans, the sex-only deal between Emma and Adam is tested. 

A tin-eared rom-com trying hard to be hip and failing miserably, No Strings Attached offers no redeeming qualities. Star Portman and director Ivan Reitman multiply their embarrassment with producer credits for a feeble, dead-on-arrival effort, sunk by an Elizabeth Meriwether script stocked with plastic characters, fabricated emotions, and not a hint of genuine comedy, romance, or authenticity.

Emma and Adam litter their dialogue with vulgarity in the script's misguided over-reach for raunchiness, all the cringey juvenile antics landing awkwardly in the laps of characters who ought to know better. Emma is supposed to be a medical student but never acts or talks in a manner consistent with her chosen profession. Meriwether can hardly be bothered to even explain the single obstacle placed in front of the lovers-to-be: Emma does not like commitments. Just because.

Portman is orders of magnitude better than the material, but even her spirited performance is consumed by the dross. She gets no help from a messy collection of supporting characters and side-plots, too many friends, roommates, and family members failing to obscure a lack of substance. The likes of Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby, and Mindy Kaling drift through the background to little effect.

The 108 minutes feel twice as long, as Reitman agonizingly trudges towards the pre-determined conclusion. No Strings Attached should have been cut adrift at the first draft.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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