Given my low expectations for any major-studio release in January, I was pleasantly surprised by No Strings Attached. Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher are pleasant to watch, and the supporting cast is peppered with interesting and colorful characters,including Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as one of Kutcher’s macho pals, Lake Bell as a socially awkward TV producer who’s got eyes for Ashton, and Kevin Kline as his self-absorbed actor father.
This being a Hollywood romantic comedy, the outcome of the story—about a man and woman who agree to a sex-only relationship—is obvious from the get-go, so this film is all about the journey, not the destination. That journey is brightened by a lot of attractive people and a surprisingly sassy, sexually forthright—
—screenplay by newcomer Elizabeth Meriwether, from a story she conceived with Mike Samonek. The fact that Portman and the other women (as well as the men) are so vocal about their sexual desires, needs, and preferences is the main reason this otherwise-predictable comedy seems freshly brewed for 2011 audiences.
The brewmaster, ironically enough, is not some kid out of film school or a graduate of music videos: it’s Ivan Reitman, who directed such comedy hits of decades past as Stripes, Meatballs, Twins, and most notably, Ghostbusters. (He also made Dave, a kinder, gentler comedy that starred Kevin Kline.) To his credit, No Strings Attached flows smoothly and shows no signs of an aging filmmaker striving to be modern.
I do wish all these talented people had produced a more original, or memorable, film, but it is January, after all. We shouldn’t expect miracles.