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No Strings Attached (2011)

January 31, 2011

3/10 F*ck Buddies

Not up to Ivan Reitman’s standards, definitely up to Ashton Kutcher’s standards.

No Strings Attached is about a guy and a girl who meet when they’re kids, meet again when they’re in college, then meet one more time after they’ve entered the real world and start knocking boots up like jackrabbits. But since the girl’s a workaholic and isn’t up for a relationship or all the emotional hangups that come with, they agree to do the whole friends with benefits thing for an indefinite amount of time. So everything’s going according to plan for a couple weeks, but then Ashton starts falling for her, she’s all like, “Boy, you trippin’,” and thus their whole let’s-use-each-other-for-sex-and-nothing-bad-can-possibly-come-of-it dynamic gets turned upside down in a way that no one saw coming.

Before I get down to fine details of this fine motion picture, let me start by saying that I am in no way shape or form the target audience for this movie. Nothing against chick flicks because I like to think that I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to the stuff I watch and I’d gladly stand up for About a Boy or Say Anything any day of the week, but what I am against are carbon copy chick flicks.

If you’ve seen the trailer, if you read that synopsis up there, you don’t need me to tell you how this movie plays out from start to finish. You know it already because you’ve seen it/heard it/lived it and it’s simply been beaten to death. The only difference here is that instead of beating around the bush, the writers have made the friends with benefits aspect the driving force of the story. Sounds edgier in theory, but believe you me, it’s about as edgy as a spoon in practice and it adds nothing to a formula that’s already been worn down to the nub.

Sure, the characters have new names and new jobs and all that good stuff, but they’re essentially going through all the same ups and downs that everyone else has gone through before them. What the writers have done here though is hit up Urban Dictionary and gone gung-ho to see how many times they can make the audience cringe over sex slang they’ve probably never even heard of. Don’t know what a “tunnel buddy” is? You will soon enough.

I did find myself smiling a couple times here and there thanks to Abby Elliott’s brief impression of Drew Barrymore and one other scene that I can’t even remember, but all in all, the script is trying too damn hard to be funny and that’s usually a recipe for failure. It’s not like there was a chorus of crickets in the audience because a lot of other folks were laughing a lot more than I was, but sitting through this kept bringing on flashbacks of seeing Best in Show and Meet the Parents with my mom back in the day, and those were not good times. It’s more just uncomfortable to listen to than anything else and too much of the humor is just aimed at grossing the audience out or making a running gag out of some random shit like a kid in the background who takes pictures of his whang and shows them to unsuspecting girls. Man, it’s weak stuff and it really did have the potential to be good, if not decent.

So, the script is generally harsh, but it is endearing to a degree, it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel and at least it’s well aware of that. And surprisingly enough, the cast ain’t too bad either.

As much as I’d like to say that Natalie Portman is doing a great job of enrolling in the Cuba Gooding, Jr. School of Imploding Your Career One Movie At a Time by following up Black Swan with this, she’s the best thing this movie’s got going for it. Just so adorable, likable and watchable as our gal Emma and she makes it work because she seems so naturally fun. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, but Portman’s a peach and this role wasn’t the misstep I expected it to be.

And I’ll save the Ashton Kutcher bashing for the day when I’m forced to watch Killers because, strangely enough, he’s fine here as the emotional half of the relationship, Adam. I thought having to watch him play Ashton Kutcher for two hours would have been the teeth-grinding experience of the year, but he doesn’t have to do a whole lot and that suits him just fine. Not a whole lot to say really, just happy things ended up working out alright.

But Kevin Kline got totally shafted with a horribly written role as Kutcher’s a-hole dad. Poor guy, he should be getting the royal treatment without fail after A Fish Called Wanda.

And then there’s Ludacris, Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling, Olivia Thirlby and Lake Bell in bit roles, and they all play their parts. A bearded Cary Elwes is also here as Portman’s boss of sorts, he’s got maybe three lines in the whole movie and his character really could have been written out entirely from square one. Just another case of unnecessary randomness from this script.

But for the most part, I’d actually say this movie is more like a 4 than a 3. It’s not terrible by any means and Natalie Portman is a major saving grace, but the thing I keep coming back to is that movies like No Strings Attached are the enemy. If it’s a light, cutesy, predictable rom-com that you’re in the mood for, then you’ll probably love this and I won’t knock ya’ for it. Different strokes for different folks, I can respect that. Then again, this just wasn’t for me and I’m dead tired of writers, directors and actors signing up to be part of the same damn movie time and time again without any noticeable difference outside of upping the awkward factor. Ladies, fellas, we can do better, we deserve better.

Sad to see Ivan Reitman attached to this, too. You directed Ghostbusters, dude. What the hell happened?

20 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2011 12:09 pm

    The subject matter alone is definitely one to avoid for me, but morality aside, it just looks terrible from the trailer. It’s amazing how far down Natalie goes from Black Swan to this… but she should’ve known when her co-star is Ashton Kutcher!

    • February 1, 2011 2:29 pm

      A truly bizarre transition, but if I had to train my ass off and lose my mind like she had to for so long in Swan, I don’t blame her for going the lighter route this once. She’s still good, she’s actually the best part of the whole movie, but still, you’re better off sticking with Swan.

  2. January 31, 2011 12:39 pm

    I knew this was going to be pretty awful and it was just so awkward for over half the movie. I don’t know if it was the audience I saw this with but a lot of the jokes got nothing but silence. Stings just didn’t know what it wanted to be…it felt like a mid-level comedy going for some edgy material, or an American Pie grade shock-comedy that pulled its punches.

    The scenes with Kutcher’s friends were all poorly written, acted and totally forced (starting with but not limited to their brief encounter in Chicago at the beginning of the film). It sure looked like the supporting cast was just waiting for this film to wrap so they could be done with this movie to say nothing of poor Kevin Kline and the nearly mute Cary Elwes!

    And I thought Ivan Reitman was just a cute cameo early on in the film…had I known he actually directed this I would have actually had some expectations for this and moreover have been more upset that this movie was just a waste of my time.

    • February 1, 2011 2:31 pm

      Awesome! Someone else who saw this!

      Missed the Reitman cameo, but I agree with everything you said. Poor Kevin Kline, poor Cary Elwes, not up to their standards whatsoever.

  3. January 31, 2011 1:13 pm

    I agree with Ruth – stay clear of Ashton Kutcher, he’s a disaster movie waiting to happen. Great review, Aiden, love the opening summary. Still, the poster does deserve a second glance since Natalie hasn’t been adverse to taking her clothes off recently.

    • February 1, 2011 2:39 pm

      Haha. Thanks, man. Yeah, Kutcher is never a selling point under any circumstances. And as for Portman’s cheekier side, this poster’s got nothing on the Your Highness red band trailer. That girl’s quickly making nerds everywhere lose their shit.

  4. January 31, 2011 1:21 pm

    Not sure what you are talking about, the trailer really gripped me and convinced me this would definitely an early lock for the Oscars 2012. Although I haven’t seen the movie, I’m pretty sure Natalie Portman will win her second Oscar in a row while Ashton Kutcher gets his first nomination for their sublime work in this brilliant masterpiece.

  5. January 31, 2011 5:16 pm

    I think I’m technically the target audience for this, as a teenage white girl with nothing to do and some throwing-around money, but…

    Okay, I didn’t hate it. It’s stupid and silly, but it’s kind of fun. At the top of my head, I can think of dozens of romantic comedies that fail simply because they’re depressing (like, claustrophobically so–My Super Ex-Girlfriend and The Ugly Truth and such), but here, I could tolerate to watch it on a plane.

    • February 1, 2011 2:42 pm

      Didn’t see The Ugly Truth or My Super Ex-Girlfriend (think that’s also directed by Ivan Reitman, unfortunately), but yeah, this isn’t terrible, it’s just not good. Then again, it has the potential to be perfect if it’s what you’re in the mood for.

      Glad to have a teenage white girl with nothing to do and some throwing-around money weigh in on this. My two cents only go so far on this one.

  6. February 1, 2011 12:59 pm

    As you could probably guess, I wouldn’t go near a film like this with a ten-foot pole. But I caught a trailer for it before some other film. Just watching the trailer brought me close to a gag reflex. YUCK! Romantic comedies are frightening enough on their own without featuring the likes of Ashton Kutcher. I’ve only seen Kutcher in two films, and that was two films too damn many!

    • February 1, 2011 2:56 pm

      Hahaha. Geez, sorry this has been such a traumatic experience for you already. Can’t believe you’ve seen two Kutcher movies though. I can understand The Butterfly Effect, but everything else is pretty godawful if I’m not mistaken.

  7. HermioneO permalink
    February 7, 2011 1:54 pm

    Best In Show was fun! I loved it.

    • February 7, 2011 2:18 pm

      Haha. It was good, it was just awkward as hell listening to all those jokes about how much Catherine O’Hara used to sleep around when your mom is sitting right next to you.

  8. February 13, 2011 2:15 am

    I wish Ashton Kutcher stayed with modeling.

    But! I do enjoy his movies once in a while like GUESS WHO, VALENTINE’S DAY (yes! …even though he was only in it for, like, 20 minutes), and um… I guess that’s it… (not KILLERS–egregious!). He just has a likable presence that makes me want to watch his movies. He’s like a cute puppy that scratches on your door on a rainy day because it’s too cold and wet outside. This one is no exception.

    I thought I’d defend him but I can’t make a solid case…

    Damn it, Ashton!

    • February 17, 2011 2:56 pm

      Oh, man. I’d keep the Guess Who, Valentine’s Day on the downlow, but at least you’re not praising Killers. Then again, there is a certain likable quality to him even if he’s digging his career even deeper by taking on horribly shitty role after another. All the same, that puppy thing’s a stretch. Lol, think you’re on your own on this one.

  9. Kathy Perez permalink
    February 22, 2011 8:43 am

    Finally, a intelligent review of this movie. I saw it last night and you got the word right, uncomfortable. It made me feel embarrassed for the so called actors. Did they think the movie would get any better the more they used the f word or talked about sex. It was a total waste of time and money for me. And why did Kline’s character have to say that he has to murder that dog? It was just a nasty, degrading, ill spirited piece of shit. I disagree with you about Portman. She looks like a waif and has bad skin to boot.

  10. July 22, 2011 2:06 pm

    come on, it wasn’t THAT bad! 😉

    • July 22, 2011 2:08 pm

      Haha. Wasn’t my thing, Anna. Don’t really think it was geared towards me either.


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