No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached

2011, R, 110 min. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Carey Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby, Mindy Kaling.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Jan. 28, 2011

No Strings Attached has a hell of a find: a nervous beauty who can precision-time a pratfall and win an audience’s heart just by biting her lip. Too bad Lake Bell’s not playing the lead. That honor goes to Natalie Portman, who verily snarls her way through this romantic comedy. Last fall, critics dinged Going the Distance – unfairly, I’d argue – for leaning too hard on the raunch. They should’ve saved their pitchforks for No Strings Attached, which takes all of a few minutes to make its first fingering joke. There’s nothing inherently wrong with coarse comedy, and certainly no more so when it’s coming out of the mouth of a woman; in fact, there’s much to recommend the sandblasting of stodgy old ideas about sugar and spice and everything nice. But it helps if an actress looks like she’s at least having fun with so much foul-mouthing. Portman plays Emma, a harried, relationship-averse first-year resident who thinks she’s hit the jackpot when she and Kutcher’s Adam, a casual acquaintance smarting from a fresh breakup, agree to become friends with benefits (or "fuck buddies," which was the original title of Elizabeth Meriwether's buzzy, Black List script). The arrangement predictably snags when Adam realizes he wants to get to know Emma out of the bedroom, too. The script has few fresh ideas but a decent share of zingers; the problem isn’t so much with Meriwether's construction as with Ivan Reitman’s listing direction – honestly, has he made a truly likable movie since 1993's cuddlesome Dave? – and casting. Engaging comedic actors like Gerwig, Kaling, and Thirlby have next to nothing to do but fan Portman like brutalized bridesmaids, and the only real purpose of Bell, who plays Adam’s high-strung coworker on a High School Musical-like TV production, is to provide misdirection (Adam flirts with the idea of dating her instead of the emotionally withholding Emma). Bell steals every scene she’s in, and her abrupt dismissal feels all the crueler for so much charisma wasted: She shoulda been a contender.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Ivan Reitman Films
Draft Day
Baseball season arrives with Kevin Costner playing a football GM. Blasphemy!

Kimberley Jones, April 11, 2014

My Super Ex-Girlfriend
High-concept farce crashes down pretty low: Think Fatal Attraction meets X-Men and you basically have the gist.

Toddy Burton, July 28, 2006

More by Kimberley Jones
Deep Sky
Doc follows the mission to build the James Webb Space Telescope and showcases the stunning first images sent back to Earth

April 19, 2024

Earth Day, Record Store Day, and More Recommended Events
Earth Day, Record Store Day, and More Recommended Events
Go green in a number of ways this week

April 19, 2024


No Strings Attached, Ivan Reitman, Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Carey Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby, Mindy Kaling

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle