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Rom-com with Benefits: Kutcher and Portman spice up ‘No Strings Attached’

Claire Stephens | Wednesday, January 26, 2011

“No Strings Attached” is a romantic comedy for the new decade.

Ashton Kutcher is surprisingly endearing in the role of Adam, son of a famous TV star trying to make a name for himself in the television industry. Adam finds himself putting up with his reckless father’s divorces and remarriages all his life as he struggles to maintain a romantic life of his own.

Natalie Portman, transitioning well from more dramatic roles, is cast as Emma, a cute and somewhat funny young doctor, who for years has convinced her mother and sister she is independent and can take care of herself.

Having been camp friends from elementary school days, Emma and Adam reunite at a college party, then again years later through Adam’s desperate, drunken texting. Here begins the ingenious plan to use each other for sex with no jealousy, cuddling or emotional strings attached. 

The rest of the film is fairly predictable in the sense that, no, Emma and Adam do not stay emotionally uninvolved to the end (shocking, isn’t it?). However, “No Strings Attached” manages to separate itself slightly from the cookie-cutter romantic comedy. Defined by some critics as a “sex comedy,” it maintains a somewhat realistic look at the character’s lives as far as sex, friendship, family and careers.

“Attached” is a fun, funny date night flick or comedy to see with a group of friends, but also a refreshing break from the over-the-top, cheesy, painfully predictable romantic comedies most have grown up with. Though not the greatest cinematic work Portman has ever been in and not the funniest work for Kutcher, the two have good on-screen chemistry.

Not to be forgotten is the rest of the cast, including Emma’s friend Shira, played by Mindy Kaling from “The Office,” Kevin Kline as Adam’s ridiculous and carefree father and Adam’s bizarre ex-girlfriend Vanessa, played by Ophelia Lovibond. Significant supporting actors bring more true-to-life facets at the forefront of the film, like friendship and family, lacking from most romantic comedies.

Credit also should be given to screenwriter Elizabeth Meriwether’s use of clever, intelligent humor throughout — from the entire cast — to keep the movie light, fun and modern. Reitman’s change in focus keeps the fairly simple plot moving between characters and events without becoming unbearably predictable.

Another spin on the formulaic romantic comedy is the score’s contribution to the fun, modern-day tone of the movie. While occasionally using the score to set the emotion of a scene, songs like “Ms. Jackson,” “I Wanna Sex You Up,” “99 Problems” and other songs of the young demographic’s time to remind the audience this is not a bad, fluffy romantic comedy of the ‘90s.

“No Strings Attached” is proof that Natalie Portman can do comedy well, proof that Ashton Kutcher can be more charming than “Punk’d” and hope for romantic comedies of the future.