No Strings Attached Review: No Brainer
There might not be any strings attached in the initial stages of this bloodless Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman love affair, but the combined failings of both casting director and screenplay ensure there is plenty of rope for everyone involved to hang themselves with.
Bachelors hell-bent on a life of promiscuity and couples embarking on open sex relationships are certainly proving the aphrodisiac of choice for the financially competent Hollywood producer this year; Love & Other Drugs, Easy A & Friends With Benefits being No Strings Attached’s most recent box office contemporaries and predecessors.
Seemingly unfazed by an increasingly repetitive career playing dim-witted and handsome romantic-comedy leads, Ashton Kutcher coughs, splutters and narrowly cheats career death in the role of Adam, a lower league television production assistant, albeit one with a trust-fund, a gift from his industry bigwig father (Kevin Kline’s cringing turn as a wealthy, stoned and emotionally absent patriarch with an unfortunate penchant for women less than half his own age).
After discovering his girlfriend has upped sticks and crawled into bed with Kevin Kline (normally an activity reserved for Demi Moore’s generation), Adam awakes from an ill-advised booty call spree and finds himself head-over-heals in love with Emma (Natalie Portman), a trainee doctor so profoundly lacking in substance and character she has to invent an irrational sexual neurosis about commitment in order to gain any semblance of a dimension. Hopefully she’s a better doctor than she is a companion judging by her failed bid to self-administer some “fucking” personality to quote one of the film’s most revered words of emphasis.
The problem: Adam wants a long term relationship based on a deeper meaning but Emma just wants a party in her pants. Will Adam and Emma become embroiled in something far more meaningful than they could ever have imagined? One guess.
Ultimately, for a film which overtly adopts sex as a topic, the whole exercise is so desperately unsexy – a genital wart on comedy’s crotch. In addition to the narrative’s hideous predictability, it is worth noting that, for a comedy, the script is devoid of one single joke which actually works, relying on crass masturbation gags in lieu of better quality material. If boredom had an orifice, No Strings Attached would violate it mercilessly.
In retrospect, perhaps the studio regrets green-lighting a project with ‘No’ and ‘Attached’ in the title having obviously set an unwanted thematic precedent in motion: subsequently the romance, the sex, the jokes, the acting and a fundamental raison d’etre were removed or fell out of the bottom along the way.