Romantic comedies are a little like junk food: they’re not healthy or sophisticated but, when made right, there’s something addictive about their tasty familiarity. There are no surprises, nasty or otherwise. The guy will capture the girl’s heart (or vice versa) and the courtship rhythms are pre-ordained. The story is so familiar that it’s like watching a re-run of something you have seen before but with different actors, a different locale, and (if you’re lucky) a few new twists. Romantic comedies are popular because they are non-threatening and offer wish fulfillment. Failed examples typically don’t work because the screenplay isn’t sufficiently focused on the romance or because the leads are mis-matched. “Chemistry” is an overused term in the film industry, but it is, without question, the #1 factor in determining the effectiveness of a motion picture residing in this genre.
No Strings Attached fits into the romantic comedy category of sex-partners who violate their “no emotions involved” agreement and fall for each other
No Strings Attached, Natalie Portman’s follow-up to her likely Oscar nominated role in Black Swan, falls into the competent-but-not-terrific category. To the extent that there’s a problem, it can be laid at the feet of the male lead. While there’s nothing about his character that’s a stretch for Ashton Kutcher, the actor’s limitations are evident from the beginning. He looks good, but these still waters don’t run deep. If one was to pick a male lead based primarily on physical appeal, Kutcher might be a good choice, but even in a movie with as thin and threadbare a plot as this one, he brings too little http://hookuphotties.net/casualdates-review to the production. There are fitful sparks between him and Portman, but he is unable to sustain viewer interest in his character. She becomes the dominant figure and that throws off No Strings Attached’s balance and impacts the all-important chemistry.
This would seem to be a paycheck opportunity for Portman and, in the past, such films have not always elicited top-notch performances. Here, perhaps because the role appears to have been tailored to her strengths, she’s credible. Emma is smart, emotionally reserved, and not given to emotional outbursts – perfect for Portman, whose least effective moments are often the most emotionally charged ones. She’s not in form here (not that anyone would expect her to be), but there’s nothing in her portrayal that will negatively impact any awards aspirations. Interestingly, this is her first formulaic romantic comedy (Garden State doesn’t count – that had a “quirky, indie” vibe); it’s an oddity for a young, attractive actress to have been in the business for 17 years before appearing in one of these.
It does most of the romantic comedy things right, including offering occasional laughs, providing a host of annoying and/or pointless secondary characters, and saving declarations of love for the last act, even though it’s clear the feelings exist long before they are voiced
They are Adam (Kutcher), a TV series production assistant with aspirations of writing a script, and Emma (Portman), a doctor struggling through her residency. Their paths, which have briefly intersected several times in the past, collide when Adam’s girlfriend dumps him for his famous father (Kevin Kline). After getting drunk, he starts calling every number stored in his cell phone and this leads him inevitably to Emma. The next morning, after he has recovered from being passed out in an apartment she shares with three roommates, they have sex and form a pact: each will be available whenever the other wants sex, no strings attached. If emotions become involved, however, they will have to terminate the agreement.