In one of the film’s few really funny scenes, Emma’s flatmates, male and female, allow him to think in his befuddled benaughty legit state that he may have had sex with one or all of them, but Emma him puts him out of his misery and tells him he had in fact passed out on the sofa after some hilarious dick-swinging exploits, which she mimics to great effect.
In this variation, marketed for the age of hookups and friends with benefits, a pretty, romance-averse ded Emma (Natalie Portman) sets the rules governing her relationships: no cuddling, no morning-after breakfasts, no learning
But then Adam and Emma finally become lovers and he’s keen to go out on a proper date; commitment-phobe that she is, Emma suggests that they become friends with benefits – lovers with the no strings attached of the title. (Incidentally the original title was �Fuck Buddies� but clearly somewhere along the line that edginess got lost.)
And that’s the story really, because of course you know what will happen. I’m really not giving anything away to say that after a lot of rip-your-clothes-off sex they end up together – but only after Adam falls in love with Emma; they break up when she can’t/won’t commit; the obligatory wedding (her sister’s) that makes Emma realise she loves Adam; and the equally obligatory medical emergency (his dad’s) that makes Adam realise he has to try one more time – because Ivan Reitman’s film, written by Elizabeth Meriwether, is film-making by numbers.
I don’t mind admitting I have a weakness for Hollywood shmaltz so can quite happily sit through hours of this stuff, but I was unmoved by No Strings Attached. Whether it’s the lack of chemistry between Kutcher and Portman, or the obvious trajectory of Meriwether’s script, or the fact that no character other than Adam is given any kind of back story (quite why Emma is so reluctant to have a settled relationship is never explained, for instance), or the criminal under-use of LA as a romantic backdrop, I can’t tell.
It’s a shame, because this could have been a thoroughly original take on the genre, since the guy is the soppy romantic one and the gal is the sex hound, but the exposition is plodding and the love story never truly ignites
But there’s the occasional sharp line, plus nice support from Greta Gerwig and Jake Johnson as Emma and Adam’s friends, while Kevin Kline acts the lot of them off screen. And Ashton Kutcher, who spends a goodly proportion of this film in a state of undress, really is super-cute.
Of course not – this is America! Or so, at least, teaches No Strings Attached, a hedging, conservative romantic comedy directed with generational bafflement by Ghostbusters� Ivan Reitman. The movie continues the long tradition of Hollywood rom-coms, from When Harry Met Sally… to Knocked Up, that bait with amusing, naughty sex and then switch to reassuring romantic commitment. Just boinking.
At first this is a Penthouse dream come true for a certain primo hottie named Adam (Ashton Kutcher, in his zone). He’s the son of a vain, babe-chasing former sitcom star (Kevin Kline, whooping it up for his old Dave director). And the son has absorbed lessons in bed-hopping from the master. But the arrangement quickly proves unworkable. To be sure, the sex is super-duper – or so we’re told in one of those montages of frantically gymnastic but coy couplings suitable for an actress as essentially refined and modest as Portman. It’s just that, well, Adam turns out to be too lovable, honorable, and emotionally open a gentleman for the cut-to-the-chase terms Emma offers. (The same darn tangles ensued when Jake Gyllenhaal boinked Anne Hathaway in Love & Other Drugs.)