No Strings Attached: Sexy Sex for Sexy Sex's Sake

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Is it any wonder that people, parents mostly, are scared of their children becoming people obsessed with sex? I mean, with movies being released left right and center that make the very point of marriage and love a joke and sex something to be taken as lightly as your next snack, one shouldn’t be surprised when the next movie that comes out has to do with infidelity, or worse, no fidelity at all. Such is the case with No Strings Attached, a movie that was cautiously released around the same time as Natalie Portman’s starry and psychotic turn in Black Swan. Have no fear, though. Portman walked away unscathed in her talents in both movies, even garnering an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as a ballerina going completely bonkers.
I think No Strings Attached was Portman’s first full-fledged comedy, or at least since her role in 2004’s Garden State with Zach Braff, which served as a more quirky, twee dramedy this stop of indie-ville. Ashton Kutcher, who, as far as I know, has never done anything more dramatic than The Butterfly Effect, plays Adam, an assistant and aspiring writer on a Glee-esque TV show, and the son of a famous TV actor and lothario (played by Kevin Kline). When Kutcher finds that his ex-girlfriend has been sleeping with his father, he loses it. He becomes reckless. And he uses the chance encounters he has had with Natalie Portman’s sweet, awkward Emma. And I’m sure you know what I mean when I say “takes advantage of”.
And from there, we get the plot and dynamic of the movie. Emma is unwilling to commit and doesn’t want a relationship, and Adam pretends to have the same intentions, so the two remains “friends with benefits”. Yes, for me, this is kind of a dubious relationships dynamic for real people, but apparently, real people are just as guilty of this as movie characters are. From one incredibly graphic sex scene that only lingers on the face and reactions of the two leads, to a montage of sex scenes where the rules are laid down, Adam, of course begins to grow a real romantic connection and bond with Emma. And so, from being just another vulgar sex comedy, the movie turns into a 21st century rendition of When Harry Met Sally…, and, honestly, that’s more than I was expecting.
Yes, as I said, I do think the relationships “dynamic” is a dubious trait, but at least it’s portrayed in a self-referential/not-so-serious way, as it meanders and finally settles on having a heart. And, luckily for viewers, the chemistry between Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman is sweet and cute and real enough for a little bit of escapism. It’s your typical clichéd movie about what men and women want, but it’s nice that it feels like an homage to the 1980’s. I think too often we’re barraged with sex comedies that either have no meaning at all and play only for crass laughs, or milked messages that drowns you in “only love is correct”. This movie walks the fine line between the two, not being too preachy, nor being too light handed with its frank sexuality.
Although, some of the funniest moments come from Emma’s roommates, the wacky circle of friends played notably by Greta Gerwig and Mindy Kaling from The Office. These two add a nice flavor of sardonicism and a bit of much-needed wit to the movie. The only problem was that they needed more screen time.
For what it was, the movie was good. Actually, it was very good, given my rather low expectations. But, as they say, lower your expectations and you will be amazed. Having said that, I was very pleased with the amount of heart the movie managed to put it from its rather low-brow structure of a casual sex relationship, if you can even use the word relationships in that phrase. It became very much a When Harry Met Sally…Redux movie. The parallels are undeniable. The chance encounters. The neurotic leads. The only thing missing was the fake orgasm in the diner.
Grade: B





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