I’m going to be blunt: my review of No Strings Attached is going to be a positive one, and for two reasons. A) Natalie Portman and B) period jokes. Let that sink in for a moment. You ready now? Good. Now, when I say Natalie Portman, I mention this because the girl can do no wrong in my book. She is beautiful, she is a talented actress, and even when she’s not in great movies like Black Swan, she is often the only thing interesting around; here’s looking at the terrible Star Wars prequels.
Basically, Portman is fantastic in No Strings Attached. It’s not the hardest role she has performed, but considering the actress is known for here Star Wars appearances, art house flicks, and cute indie comedies, the fact she is the female lead of a cheesy romantic comedy is a bit of a surprise. However, she’s funny and vulnerable as the neurotic Emma, the emotionally distant doctor and female lead.
So that brings us to the actual plot of No Stings Attached. A romantic comedy, you’ll see the typical “wacky but good-natured best friends,” the misunderstandings that lead to a funny romantic moment, the last minute death/illness/wedding of a mutual friend/relative/loved one. In that sense, No Strings Attached is as typical and boring as any other RomCom. There’s a lot here that is recycled from what is a tired genre, but like a late night trip to McDonalds, it’s nothing truly offensive, and feels good to experience.
What is new is the interesting premise of the film, in which long-time childhood friends Emma (Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) meet up after a series of run-ins that have been happening off and on for a decade. Like a very fast When Harry Met Sally, the two end up sleeping together after a night of desperation on Adam’s part. Both are busy people, with Adam working as a PA on a Glee-esque television show, and Emma is working on her residency as a doctor. After setting some rules up about not falling in love, they work out a completely physical relationship.
Unfortunately, it’s a premise that is going to be replicated in the Mila Kunis/ Justin Timberlake film set for next month, Friends With Benefits. Thankfully, No Strings Attached has an early lead on that other film, and still feels fresh. It addressed the big question: can people have a completely sexual relationship without gaining stronger feelings for their sexual partner? Considering the nature of romantic comedies, I bet you can see where this goes, but it’s a fun film, and you can’t help but root for the romantic leads.
The supporting cast is also fantastic, with Kevin Kline as Adam’s famous father Alvin, Jake Johnson as Adam’s best friend Eli (who has two gay dads), and Mindy Kaling as Emma’s roommate Shira. I particularly like Kaling, who is underutilized on her day job with The Office, and is one of my favorite up and coming comedians. Oh, and Carey Elwes makes an odd cameo in the film with a character I can’t quite figure out, but like Portman, the man can do no wrong in my eyes.
You’re probably wondering why I haven’t said much about Ashton Kutcher so far. After all, he is the male lead, and arguably spends more time on screen than Portman. Well, he performs just fine, and is charming enough, but he goes through all the motions without anything particularly interesting to say. I did love the fact that he’s trying to be a writer for a show like Glee, but some subplot about his famous dad and his ex-girlfriend is just blah. Portman steals the movie, and Kutcher should be grateful she iss there to make a mediocre film something more.
Now there’s that other reason I liked No Strings Attached. There is a scene where Portman and her doctor housemates are all on the same cycle. Vagina jokes, cupcakes, and a “period mix” with songs like “Even Flow” all make this one of the greatest film scenes about periods. Period. .