Friday, 24 June 2011

An Intimate Friendship

15 – 104mins – 2011
Written by: Elizabeth Meriwether
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Lake Bell , Jake Johnson, Ludacris, Ophelia Lovibond, Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling, Cary Elwes

As emotionally reserved lone wolf Dr. Emma Kurtzman, Natalie Portman plays a character on the opposite end of the personality spectrum to the fragile and clingy wallflower she played so masterfully (and won an Academy Award for) in Darren Aronofsky’s psychological ballet thriller Black Swan (read my rave review HERE).

But as frustrating as her distant, loveless outlook in No Strings Attached may be (she plays a shift-working nurse with no time for love who rejects all slivers of emotional attachment but is still up for the primal act of sack-jumping when the urge so strikes), Portman – along with amiable co-star Aston The Butterfly Effect Kutcher – manages to inject this “modern” story of sex-centric relationships with a surprising amount of charm.

I can’t abide the contemporary assumption that everyone living in the twenty-first century is so darn flippant about who they fuck, therefore I was initially concerned that Ivan Ghostbusters Reitman’s skewed rom-com-minus-the-rom would favour the raunchier aspect of this friends-with-benefits pairing over the deeper issue of why Emma is so adamant that her life is better off without love, but I was pleased that neither character was painted as an immoral whore who slept around with any Tom, Dick or Hairy (yes, that was a purposeful misspelling).

No Stings Attached mercifully took a more tender tact (outside of a few booty call montage sequences; but don’t expect anything too vulgar), and just to hammer home the point that romance still exists in this dishonest age, Kutcher’s Adam is the first to fall in love – see, men have feelings too! – while Emma continually spurns his advances outside the bedroom.

It’s a shame the plot becomes predictably twee as Emma’s heart belatedly beats to a passionate beat and everything ends far too happily in a nice neat idealistic Hollywood bow, but then there are an abundance of one dimensional cookie-cutter characters clichés outside of the likeable leads.

In a CR@B Shell: Inevitably optimistic climax aside, No Strings Attached is a surprising good-natured statement on the pros and cons of the modern view towards monogamy. It’s hard to see what more the upcoming Friends with Benefits (starring Portman’s Black Swan co-star Kunis) can contribute to this concept.

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