Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Strings Attached - light, romantic fare...

I have to start by giving some full disclosure. I hate Ashton Kutcher. There I said it. Last year’s ‘Killers’ was one of the worst movies of the year; in fact, I don’t think Kutcher has done anything that I liked at all, even his camera commercials make me turn the channel. So, with that being out in the open…

‘No Strings Attached’ is a surprisingly likable and often funny romantic comedy! Romantic comedies are very difficult to make; they can wander off into sappy and predictable (‘When in Rome’) or become too cute and boring (‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’); but every so often, there are films in this genre that really hit the mark. The story is well written, the actors have great chemistry and the direction is spot on. ‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘You’ve Got Mail’, ‘The American President’, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and even the most recent ‘It’s Complicated’ are all great examples of romantic comedies that hit it right on all accounts. While ‘No Strings Attached’ is not in the same category of a ‘You’ve Got Mail’; it certainly does not fall into the trap of ‘When in Rome’.

Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are life-long friends who almost lose that friendship by having sex one morning after Adam wakes up in her apartment having ended up there because he was so drunk the night before. Wanting to protect their friendship (as well as avoid Emma’s fear of commitment), the make a deal to keep their relationship ‘no strings attached’ – sex whenever and wherever they want with each other but always bearing in mind that there are no expectations, no jealousy, no fighting and most of all, no romance. The problem, however, can you have sex without falling in love? Under the steady direction of Ivan Reitman and with the wonderful chemistry of Portman and Kutcher, this very adult romantic comedy works on many levels.

The movie itself is genuinely funny and sexy without making you feel like your intelligence has been challenged. Adam and Emma have been running into each other over the years and have a growing ‘friends’ relationship. Emma is a doctor who winds up in a hospital not far from where Adam is an assistant on a ‘Glee’ like TV show. Adam is trying to strike out on his own, currently living in the shadow of his sitcom star father (the very funny Kevin Kline). Adam is devastated to learn that his father’s latest sexual conquest is Adam’s former girlfriend. Angry and totally humiliated he wakes up from a drunken stupor in Emma’s apartment where they fall into bed together. Having her own issues and fear of commitment, she proposes the ‘sex only’ relationship.

Over the course of the film, feelings begin to develop and complications ensue; things don’t quite work as planned. Writer Elizabeth Meriwether (in her first screenplay) should be commended for not turning this film into an idiotic farce about how either can’t do without each other. Instead, we get a very intelligent as well as thought provoking comedy of how two people can seriously miscalculate their ability to put the feelings on hold. Sometimes, even though you try to resist love, love will find you anyway!

Portman is simply delightful and has a real flair for the romantic comedy (ala Meg Ryan) and she is matched well with Kutcher who is actually very likable here. I do think it is a credit to Portman that she can carry him as well as the film. Drew Barrymore did much of the same thing for Adam Sandler in ‘The Wedding Singer’ and it has changed his career; this may just turn things around for Kutcher as well. This is a film with heart and turns into one of the better romantic comedies I have had the pleasure of viewing in some time. This is a 3 star effort worth the trip to the theater.

It’s Oscar time! The New Lenox Patriot will once again be hosting the “Outguess Bob’s Oscar Picks’ contest. The picks will be in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. The tie breaker will be Best Animated Feature. Start studying up! You can look up my past reviews at the Patriot website as well as my blog! Look for my picks next week; I will announce the prizes as well, the top three will win!

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