The movie stars Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman as a couple of friends who agree to pursue a purely physical relationship. It’s a twist on the “Can men and women ever just be friends (especially when there’s chemistry)” dilemma pondered so brilliantly in the classic When Harry Met Sally. But while Harry and Sally were afraid to let sex get in the way of a perfectly good friendship, Adam and Emma dance around their growing friendship and affection so as not mess up their “sex buddy” status.
In a bit of a role reversal, it’s Kutcher’s character Adam who balks first and violates the rules that the commitment-phobic Emma has spelled out in great detail (“No jealousy”, “No expectations”, “No baby voices”). Adam is obviously smitten from the get go and can’t help but wear his perfectly good heart on his sleeve. Emma takes a bit longer to sort out her feelings and by then, of course, it could be too late. Can their friendship – with or without benefits- possibly survive?! 😉
The dialogue is surprisingly raunchy, especially in the beginning, but never really offensive. The movie was written by a woman (Elizabeth Meriwether) and directed by a man (Ivan Reitman) who definitely understand the limits and sensibilities of a mainstream audience – much like Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner did with When Harry Met Sally.
No Strings Attached doesn’t break any new ground. But it is entertaining in a “sit back, relax and pass the popcorn” sort of way. Adam resembles every other character Kutcher’s ever played, including himself (I half-expect him to jump off the screen shouting, “You just got Punk’d dude!”). But that’s okay. He’s cute and sweet and eminently likeable. And so is Portman – though she definitely does show her range as an actress. Emma is as far from Portman’s dark and riveting Nina in Black Swan as one could possibly get. Strings’ supporting cast of friends and family is solid as well, including Kevin Kline as Adam’s self-absorbed actor father. Great Scott! (If you see the movie, you’ll know why I had to do that).
No Strings Attached feels a bit long despite a running time under two hours, and it’s certainly no When Harry Met Sally. But it does hold its own as an amusing and somewhat heartwarming chick flick for adults. And how often do those come along? Not nearly enough.