Monday, February 14, 2011

No Strings Attached

The choice of opening song should tell you everything you need to know about this featherweight rom-com: I Wanna Sex You Up. Yes indeed, No Strings Attached is frothy and definitely not to be taken seriously. Ivan Reitman’s (Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop) latest comedic romp is probably receiving far too much attention thanks to Natalie Portman’s Academy Award hyped turn in Black Swan. It's too easy to damn this frivolous film in comparison — and many can’t help themselves.

No Strings Attached has absolutely no designs above its station. Ashton Kutcher is still trading on his boyish looks and perfectly tousled hair, although both have slightly more traction this time as he plays Adam, a TV assistant on some thinly veiled High School Musical show who is desperately try to claw his way out from under the shadow of his TV icon father Alvin (a wasted Kevin Kline). The last straw comes when Alvin shacks up with his ex-girlfriend (Ophelia Lovibond), the revelation of which sets Adam on a mission for meaningless sex. In Emma (Portman) he finds a perfect match; the pair were childhood acquaintances and now Emma is a busy doctor and total commitment-phobe, for whom casual sex is just the ticket. Throw in a smattering of zany supporting characters – notably the lovely Greta Gerwig and a delightfully goofy Lake Bell – and a paint-by-numbers storyline, and No Strings Attached plays a lot like an uninspired, feature length version of Friends.

Anyone who was amused by Drew Barrymore’s recent Going the Distance will find some similar giggles here. There is the same gender equality when it comes to the film’s treatment of sex, swearing and the more ribald scenes. The level of awkward is also on par, but the laughs are fewer and farther between. One presumes screenwriter Elizabeth Meriwether was going for deadpan, but too many of the lines simply flat line. However just enough are saved by sparks of chemistry between Kutcher and Portman, with Kutcher raising his game (no tawdry pun intended) and Portman well able to water down her Garden State quirkiness. The result is a film that’s inoffensive, mildly amusing and instantly forgettable, indeed, about as skin deep as the casual relationship at its premise.

So while No Strings Attached is going to be the go-to film for the desperate and dating come Valentine’s Day, one thing’s for sure; no-one will be calling Ivan Reitman a genius this time around.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 10 February 2011

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