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Review: No Strings Attached

From out of the romcom wilderness comes No Strings Attached, an inoffensive, oft entertaining and even occasionally funny addition to the genre. Whilst the Brits have Richard Curtis’ multi-storied outings like Love Actually (2003) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), it is Hollywood and its usual cast of actresses who have come to dominant the field. Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl seem to work on rotation opposite male leads like Matthew McConaughey and the menfolk that make up the cast of Grey’s Anatomy.

Romcoms frequently set up unrealistic ideals about love and relationships, as more often than not the genre revolves around a seemingly unsuitable couple getting it together. And No Strings Attached is no different, but it does stands out from the condescending/nauseating masses thanks to its strong female cast. Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig (Greenberg), Olivia Thrilby (Juno) and Lake Bell (It’s Complicated) give the audience more to chew on with their performances. Yes they still fit into the archetypal romcom female roles, but there are glimpses where the characters play against convention, and this adds some colour to a generally formulaic film.

Emma (Natalie Portman) and Patrice (Greta Gerwig)

Portman stars as Emma, a doctor in-residence whose 80-hour working week doesn’t leave time for romance and who nullifies the potential for heartbreak by avoiding commitment. When Emma bumps into an old acquaintance, Adam (Ashton Kutcher) the pair develop a ‘no strings attached’ sexual arrangement, revolving around booty calls. It isn’t hard to guess where the story will go from there, but even though the storyline is predictable there is still some fun to be had in its telling.

No Strings Attached is definitely not without its weak points and the movie completely runs out of steam towards the end. Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) turns up as a respected doctor, but his role goes absolutely nowhere. Adam’s subplot with his aging TV star father, Alvin (Kevin Klein) is also pretty limited, and while British actress Ophelia Lovibond (Nowhere Boy) is fun as Alvin’s much younger girlfriend Vanessa, these characters take away more than they add to the major plot.

Adam (Ashton Kutcher) and Emma (Natalie Portman)

Director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop) certainly hasn’t done anything ground-breaking or original with this film, but he gets points for dealing with the topic of sex in an unusually adult way for a comedy.  Lacking raunch (and foreplay) the film’s sex scenes are light-hearted, but they also depict sex as healthy and normal, something rarely seen in comedies or, in fact, mainstream films.

The film’s male cast is weak and it is definitely the females who do the heavy lifting in this film. Portman’s recent attention for her fantastic performance in the much lauded Black Swan is undoubtedly giving No Strings Attached a massive push in the publicity stakes. As romcoms go this is a cut above average and makes for easy, pleasant but quickly forgettable viewing.

No Strings Attached is released in Australia February 10th

Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Kevin Klein, Olivia Thrilby, Lake Bell, Ophelia Lovibond, Cary Elwes, Ludacris, Mindy Kaling and Ben Lawson

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