NO STRINGS ATTACHED
By Gary Murray
Starring Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman, Cary Elwes, Kevin Kline and Greta Gerwig
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Written by Elizabeth Meriwether
Running time 105 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
In the 1970's and 1980's Ivan Reitman was a cinematic god. He was the driving force behind Animal House, Stripes and possibly the greatest comedy film of all time Ghostbusters. Since those days, he has been a part of some very successful flicks and a few major flops. Lately, he's been known more for being the dad of Jason Reitman, the new hot film director. No Strings Attached should put Ivan back on top.
The film starts fifteen years ago with Emma and Adam meeting in camp. We learn very shortly that he's a bit of a softy and she is a bit hard. We go ahead another few years and they are both in college, meeting up again. Adam (Ashton Kutcher) a Michigan party frat boy and Emma (Natalie Portman) is going to MIT. She asks him to go to 'this thing' with her. He dresses casual and finds that 'this thing' is her father's funeral. Flash forward again and they meet for the third time, this time in LA. He's working as a production assistant for a cheesy Disney Channel style show. She's working on her residency at a local hospital.
Now enter all the complications. Adam's Dad is Alvin (Kevin Kline), the star of a sit-com Great Scott who just seems to be cruising on the laurels of the show. Alvin is dating Adam's former girlfriend. Emma, so busy with becoming a doctor, has no time for a social life which she refers to as 'an emotional peanut allergy'.
One night, Adam starts to drunk-dial everyone on his phone, getting drunker as the night goes on. In the morning he wakes up in an apartment naked. In the apartment are two different women and a gay guy. He's not sure if he slept with any of them. Then Emma walks out, laughing. He came over to her house, got naked and passed out. The four are all roommates and working at the hospital.
Going into Emma's room to get his pants, the two finally hook-up. This starts the basic precis of the film. The two of them will be sex friends, in a non-committal relationship on-call 24 hours just to have sex. They will do their best not to fall in love. Anyone who has seen a romantic comedy will know where this is heading.
This film earns it's R rating with drug use, loads of nudity and a Titanic load of swear words. Those looking for a cute romantic flick need to be wary of all the adult themes that spill over just about every frame of No Strings Attached.
To build romantic tensions, we get other doctors who show interest in Emma including Cary Elwes as Dr Metzner. We know these suitors are not going to measure up. On the flip side, there are many temptations for Adam to sample including a three way with two newly discovered lesbians. But the more the screenplay tries to twist others into the mix, the more it becomes a weakness of the script.
With a film like this one, everybody knows where it will end-up, they just want to take the trip with the characters. Both Ashton and Natalie define their roles and work well together in a Mutt and Jeff fashion, mismatches juxtaposed side by side. Both are what is expected by the romantic comedy genre, cute and quirky, with loads of charm. By the time we get to the ending, many of the moments seem false.
The supporting cast is made up of members from The Office and Saturday Night Live. adding bits of comedy in moments. The story is a cupcake of the two leads and everyone else is just sprinkles on the icing.
Ivan Reitman, at one time, knew how do deliver madcap comedy. He used the best comics of the day to give audiences films that are treasured as masterpieces of a generation. Lately, he has been a bit off-track, delivering softer films. This is a slight turn of the cinematic boat to his heyday. He builds scenes of comedy and scenes of romance but doesn't meld them together well.
No Strings Attached should be a major box office winner but it is neither a comedy classic nor a romantic classic. It is a Valentine's Day flick, a sweet little morsel that goes down easy and is forgotten by President's Day.