No Strings Attached

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Movie review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Cary Elwes, Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jake Johnson

Director: Ivan Reitman

The art of writing a good romantic comedy is much more difficult than people think. Although there is a very rigid structure to them, getting the pacing right and injecting the right amount of tension without alienating an audience is actually quite tricky.

NO STRINGS ATTACHED is a good example of what happens when the pacing and the tension are all wrong and you end up with a film where you spend the last half an hour shifting awkwardly in your seat and leaving the film glad to never have to spend time with these annoying unlikeable losers ever again.

It all starts promisingly enough as we are introduced to Adam (Aston Kutcher) and Emma (Natalie Portman) when they meet at summer camp, and then we meet then many years later as their paths cross again. Having seen the poster, watched the trailer and generally being aware that what we are watching is a rom-com, we know that at some point these two are going to realise they love one another and it will all end happily. Naturally there has to be a twist, and the twist here is that they agree to a no-strings-attached relationship, all the sex but no cuddle, no jealousy and no breakfast in the morning. And so we spend the rest of the film waiting for the moment when they realise that this doesn’t work and they are meant to be together.

Kutcher and Portman make a lovely couple and there is the right amount of chemistry between them. In fact for the first 45 minutes, all the boxes are ticked and even the incidental characters are interesting and more importantly, funny. We have Kevin Kline as Kutcher’s pothead father and some nice support from both Emma and Adam’s friends.

It is difficult to know at what stage the film goes wrong, but at some point the push and pull of the will-they-won’t-they between Emma and Adam becomes extremely tiresome and you reach a point where, especially with Portman’s character, she over steps the line from troubled to annoying. We don’t really get to explore why she is so against having a relationship and so she comes across as uptight and damaged.

None of this is the actors faults and for the most part Natalie Portman and especially Aston Kutcher are likeable and believable. I have never been a big Aston Kutcher fan and he hasn’t had a particularly successful career, but based on his performance here, it is less his acting and more his ability to pick material that have caused this.

Sad too, that the director is Ivan Reitman, director of GHOSTBUSTERS 1, 2 and soon to be 3. His last film as director was the equalling disappointing MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND. Let’s hope GHOSTBUSTERS 3 is a step up.

If you go and see this with a date, maybe it would be best to leave the theatre about 45 minutes in. You know how it will end anyway.

2 out of 6 stars