DVD Release Date: May 10, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: January 21, 2011
Rating: R (for sexual content, language and some drug material)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Run Time: 110 min.
Director: Ivan Reitman
Actors: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby, Ludacris, Mindy Kaling, Talia Balsam
Playing out like 1989's When Harry Met Sally in reverse, the Ashton Kutcher-Natalie Portman rom-com No Strings Attached examines modern sexual mores by posing the following question: Can men and women just sleep together on a regular basis without the pesky inconvenience of falling in love getting in the way?
Apparently, the answer we're looking for is yes—for a while, anyway.
When Adam (Kutcher) and Emma (Portman) first meet, it's not exactly cute. In fact, they're just two gawky teenagers barely surviving summer camp. But when Adam makes a rather bold sexual advance that immediately sets the film's bawdy comedic tone, Emma doesn't mind because she's convinced she'll never actually see him again.
Well, until she does…once at a drunken college frat party, then again when they're all grown up, beautiful and getting established in their respective careers (she's a doctor-in-training, he's a wannabe writer paying his dues as a producer for a cheesy High School Musical meets Glee TV show).
In fact, bumping into each other has become such a bad habit that when a severely inebriated Adam accidentally makes his way to Emma's apartment (just one of the script's many plot contrivances) after discovering his own father is sleeping with his 23-year-old ex, Emma and Adam decide to make the most of serendipity and sleep together.
But for reasons never fully explored, other than repeatedly citing Emma's crazy 80-hour work schedule, she's not interested in anything but a carnal connection with Adam or anyone else. Whenever she gets home from the hospital at 2:00 a.m., however, Emma wouldn't mind having someone attractive to a share a bed with, so she strikes the unusual bargain that Adam immediately agrees to.
Naturally, issues like whether to snuggle—or not—after sex eventually complicate things, so Emma sets some strict ground rules for the arrangement. Aside from a no cuddling clause, there's also no staring deeply into each other's eyes, no listing each other as an emergency contact and absolutely, positively, nothing even resembling a date in the real world or jealousy if one (or both) of them hooks up with someone else.
Yet while Adam's friends (yes, one of them is rapper/actor Ludacris, which is funny, albeit unintentionally so) try and convince him he's basically living every man's dream, he's actually beginning to feel something more (gasp!) for his sex buddy—even when she's rejecting each and every one of his puppy dog glances and gifts like a post-coital balloon with "Congrats" written on it.
Whether it's the thrill of the chase or if absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, there's really no concrete reason—clichéd or otherwise—for Adam's feelings for Emma to deepen, save for the screenwriter's goal of swapping the traditional gender roles. Like so many films of this ilk, the protagonists are flimsily constructed, which inevitably makes them, not to mention the plot, difficult to invest in. And as hard as he tries, Kutcher never comes off as anything deeper than the requisite eye candy, which makes his sudden conversion to a man of substance all the more unconvincing. If anything, you expect that it's all a joke, like one of his juvenile pranks on Punk'd.
For Portman, an actress who rarely flexes the comedic chops she's brought to late-night hosting duties on Saturday Night Live, No Strings Attached was probably a nice change of pace after playing a mentally unstable ballerina in the much-ballyhooed Black Swan. But one can't still help but wonder why she chose this project to star in and produce. Sure, there are a few guilty-pleasure laughs sprinkled throughout this mess of a movie, but what statement does No Strings Attached actually make about the state of modern relationships?
Well, it's nothing like what we learned from Harry and Sally in 1989, that's for sure. Sure, both movies basically arrive at the same conclusion—that sex without commitment isn't ultimately a worthwhile pursuit. But truth be told, the journey from friendship to love was far more believable 22 years ago because When Harry Met Sally had everything that No Strings Attached lacks: thoroughly developed characters, meaningful dialogue and a discernable heartbeat to boot.
Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking, particularly at a college frat party where everyone's getting plastered. Adam's dad is shown smoking weed in one scene, and Adam eventually joins him. Adam's dad almost overdoses on a combination of vodka, 7-Up and purple cough syrup.
Language/Profanity: A smattering of expletives throughout including a--, sh--, fu--, a--hole, plus several crude references to sex, bodily functions and male/female anatomy.
Sex/Nudity: While certainly not as graphic as last year's Love & Other Drugs or Going the Distance, the movie formerly known as F---buddies still has plenty of sexual content. Adam is nude in a couple of scenes with only his groin area covered up (the camera often lingers on his backside). The unmarried protagonists Adam and Emma hop into bed on several occasions, but most scenes don't get very explicit, save for one in the beginning that leaves little to the imagination. When Emma encourages Adam to go and sleep with someone else because they're getting too close, Adam goes home with two women who are way more into each other than him. Later, these girls are shown disrobing (skimpy bras and panties) and making out with each other, while Adam encourages their efforts. In a wasted side plot, Adam's dad confesses that he's sleeping with Adam's 23-year-old ex-girlfriend and isn't afraid to expound on how great she is in the sack.
Violence: Only of a comedic nature.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.