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A 2011 romantic comedy starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.

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Who Needs Love? Let's Just Have Sex!

  • Jan 22, 2011
Star Rating:

What No Strings Attached lacks in originality and unpredictability is made up for in the charm and likeability of its leads. Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman not only have great onscreen chemistry, they also are individually well developed – at least, as well developed as they can be within the boundaries of a romantic comedy. It’s also surprisingly funny, although it’s only partly because of the well placed raunchy sex jokes; the film is one of the few recent romantic comedies to successfully find that balance between sweetness and silliness, and while that’s only moderate praise for writer Elizabeth Meriwether and director Ivan Reitman, at least it’s proof that they know how to take innately ridiculous material and make it accessible to general audiences.
The film is not realistic in any way, shape, or form, but that’s just stating the obvious because we don’t go to movies like this looking for meaning or truth. It tells the story of Adam and Emma (Kutcher and Portman), who first met as teenagers in summer camp and saw each other off and on over the next several years. In the present day, they live in Los Angeles, Adam an assistant on a TV series that crosses Glee with High School Musical, Emma a doctor at UCLA. They have successfully maintained a friendship, although there’s always a flash of jealousy whenever one of them shows up with a significant other. When Adam’s girlfriend dumps him for his father (Kevin Kline), he goes on a bender, makes several phone calls to women he knows ... and wakes up in Emma’s apartment, naked and surrounded by Emma’s friends and fellow residents.

No sex took place the night before. The morning after, however, Adam and Emma suddenly drop their defenses and just go for it. That’s when they decide to take a stab at being friends with benefits; they will use each other for sex at any time of the day, but they won’t commit to anything long-term. Surprisingly, this comes at the insistence of Emma, who for reasons left a little obscure is frightened by serious relationships. This is made clear in her habit of texting Adam rather than seeing him in person, a trend that has become all too real in today’s smart phone society. I’ll stop short of saying this movie is sending a message about technology limiting social interaction, although there are hints of it all throughout.
No more of the plot needs to be described. It goes through the motions and ends exactly the way we expect it to end. There are, however, a couple of side characters that deserve to be mentioned. One of the best is Adam’s on-set colleague, Lucy (Lake Bell), who’s deeply neurotic and talks at a hundred miles an hour. Making this kind of character likeable is next to impossible, and yet Bell pulls it off, probably because she understood that there’s a fine line between comedy relief and annoyance. And then there are Adam’s best friends, played by Chris Bridges and Jake Johnson; they aren’t given all that much to do, but you can count on them for a few good male-oriented one-liners. Kline is somewhat underutilized as Adam’s father, a former TV star who does drugs as if it was the 1970s and has a thing for much younger women. He’s mostly just a counterpoint to his son, a way for the audience to see what Adam should not do when it comes to meeting and loving the opposite sex.
One of the film’s funniest scenes is in Emma’s apartment, where she and her girlfriends – along with one gay man – spend the night together in the throes of menstrual agony. Knowing they’re all on the same cycle, Adam stops by with a box full of cupcakes. He also gives Emma a period-specific mix CD, with titles such as “I Keep Bleeding Love” and “I’ve Got the World on a String.” There’s also a moment when Emma gives Adam a Valentine’s Day card, which reads, “You give me premature ventricular contractions.” I laughed hard. But then again, I was raised by registered nurses who specialized in cardiology, so I probably had an unfair advantage.
Reitman made the right choices in the casting of Kutcher and Portman, for they have that compatibility movies like this require. Kutcher is especially enjoyable and plays what may be the warmest, most caring role of his entire career. Portman is also a natural fit for this movie, which is surprising given her latest stint as a mentally ill ballerina; it’s good for even the most dedicated and serious of actors to reveal that they do in fact have a sense of humor. No Strings Attached is by no means a great movie, and it will never be in the same league as Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, my two favorite Reitman comedies. But if you’re in the mood for a conventional lightweight romantic comedy, this movie gets the job done nicely.


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May 21, 2011
Love your title, great review.
January 28, 2011
I wanted to see this and am glad that you gave it a good write-up. I was also happy to see Portman being an intelligent actress in choosing this role to showcase her talents against Black Swan. I'm always on the lookout for lighthearted movies to watch in the afternoon. Thanks!
January 27, 2011
I've been curious about this movie because I'm a Natalie and Ashton fan. I'll have to find someone to drag to this... :D Thanks for sharing!
January 22, 2011
I dislike Kutcher...but....but...I love Portman!! Great to know that the movie had its high points. I may see this myself...I just may see it....
January 22, 2011
I agree his role choices haven't been that memorable, but give him a chance. He may someday surprise you.
January 27, 2011
Oh, another thing, I may have to steal your review headline once again LOL!
January 22, 2011
Thanks for this review...I love Natalie Portman (thought she was magnificent in Black Swan) but I definitely don't think of her as a comedic actress, so I was curious to read reviews of NSA. It sounds like it might be a fun diversion after the intensity of Black Swan, the heaviness of The Fighter and the seriousness of The King's Speech. Thanks!
January 22, 2011
You're welcome. Natalie Portman can be funny when she wants to be, and here, she pulls it off. And you're right, this movie is a fun diversion away from "Black Swan."
January 22, 2011
Yeah, I agree! Sounds like heaps of FUN! I'll go grab a copy of this if I can find it in town! Thanks!
January 22, 2011
Thanks. Actually, this film was just released in theaters, so you'll have to wait a few months before grabbing a copy.
January 23, 2011
Hehe... NOT if one lives in China ;-)
January 27, 2011
Sharrie's a rock star... LOL!
More No Strings Attached reviews
review by . February 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
      Ivan Reitman, the director known for his long collaboration with Bill Murray, gave me enough reasons to worry about this flick only by the look of the trailer. No Strings Attached looked just like another cheap and average romantic comedy full of glam scenes and cliches. Is it the case here? Yes, it probably is. But something changed my judgment on this movie right after I left the theater. I said to myself: "wait a minute, this movie ain't that bad so I need to …
Quick Tip by . June 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I'm not a fan of romantic comedies, I loathe Ashton Kutcher, and I find most Hollywood films to be fairly predictable and dull... yet for some reason (Natalie Portman) I almost liked this film. The keyword (other than Natalie Portman) being 'almost'.   What works in this film (Natalie Portman) is that the characters are surprisingly charming despite their predictability. And I found myself attracted to (Natalie Portman) them for a number of reasons, mostly because they're …
Quick Tip by . May 20, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
After Natalie Portman received high acclaim for "Black Swan", I am truly dumbfounded how her follow up would be this film and "Your Highness". However, I have to say while I knew where this movie was going when I saw the trailers, I thought it was pretty fun. There really isn't much for me to say about this film so I'll stick to a quick tip.      Portman plays Emma and she is not into relationships and Kutcher plays Adam, an aspiring script writer …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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  • Opens January 21, 2011 | Runtime:1 hr. 50 min.
  • R
    Sexual content, language and some drug content
  • Lifelong friends Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) take their relationship to the next level by having sex. Afraid of ruining their friendship, the new lovers make a pact to keep things purely physical, with no fighting, no jealousy and no expectations. Emma and Adam pledge to do whatever they want, wherever they want, as long as they do not fall in love. The question then becomes, which one will fall first?
  • Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling, Olivia Thirlby
  • Director: Ivan Reitman
  • Genres: Romantic ComedySex ComedyComedy
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