Review: NO STRINGS ATTACHED (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 19 February 2011



Once upon a time, Ivan Reitman is used to be making some of the '80s most beloved comedies (MEATBALLS, STRIPES, GHOSTBUSTERS and TWINS). Then came a series of high-profile misfires during the '90s (JUNIOR and SIX DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS) and '00s (EVOLUTION and MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND). Now he's back into the directing chair after five-years' hiatus since his MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND debacle, and it's quite a surprise he chooses to tackle a raunchy romantic comedy that could have helmed by Judd Apatow instead. I mean, seriously, at the age of 64, Ivan Reitman should have gone something more mature. But unfortunately he feels strangely out of place here because everything about NO STRINGS ATTACHED (it was once called as FUCK BUDDIES) trying so hard to be hip and so today turns to be such a wannabe instead. No, make that a big wannabe.

On the surface, though, NO STRINGS ATTACHED gets an extra point for attempting something different than what would be a typical romantic comedy by mixing a novelty premise about two peoples getting involved in a strictly sexual relationship. (Okay, 2010's LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS beat it to theaters by two months before). And there's the always-reliable Ashton Kutcher (at least for this kind of genre) and of course the lovable Natalie Portman who have been lately making a huge spotlight herself (following from her critically-acclaimed and multiple award-winning turn in last year's BLACK SWAN). Added to that is the much-needed R-rated vibe here, meaning there's no restraint in term of sex, dialogue and situational matter of romance and comedy aspect. But wait, Elizabeth Meriwether's screenplay says it otherwise -- it's a kind of movie that is wanted to be daring but keeps holding back. Not one, not two but numerous times that I don't know whether it's Ivan Reitman's fault being such a dick himself for refusing to let loose or Meriwether's fault for trying to blur the line between raunchy and romance.

As for the plot, the story follows a series of encounters between Adam (Kutcher) and Emma (Portman) from the day as young teens at Camp Weehawken, then again ten years later from a college frat party and five years past till today, they chanced upon each other again. Except that now they lead into different path of life: Emma is a hardworking medical intern who has no interest in romance, while Adam works as a lowly production assistant on a Glee-style television series. When his hot ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Ophelia Lovibond) is found sleeping with his aging former sitcom star father, Alvin (Kevin Kline), he seeks comfort with buddies Eli (Jake Johnson) and Wallace (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) to drink away his sorrow and vows to call every women he knows to have sex. But next thing he knows, he wakes up the following morning lying naked on the couch in Emma's apartment without any memory of how he got there in the first place. It doesn't take long before Adam was actually sleeping with one of her roommates, fellow medical intern named Patrice (Greta Gerwig). But before he plans to head home, he and Emma are suddenly attracted to each other and ends up having a quick sex together. Their first sex session together turns out to be such a memorable moment for Adam until he goes up to Emma and gives her a balloon present. A few hiccups later, Emma suggests it would be great for them to keep their relationship strictly sexual. All they have to do is phone or text each other, and they will have sex at anytime, anywhere. So far their favor works well, until one of them starts to feel for something. Something that is touchy-feely, of course.

Novelty premise aside, NO STRINGS ATTACHED is surprisingly very shallow and enormously patchy all over the place. There's little sense of consistency in Meriwether's writing here. Sure, there are moments of hilarious F-bomb and some noteworthy verbal gags but those only pops in some occasions. Perhaps the biggest problem here is that Meriwether fails miserably to push the envelope beyond the surface of her script. And there's the sheer clumsiness the way Reitman handled his direction here. It's hard to believe that he's obviously very rusty these days. At one point, it's actually good to see him trying to keep up the pace for today's romantic comedy style, and at another point, he's such a slapdash filmmaker who still can't get his hand off relying on the weary formula (yup, the one that usually involved a series of melodramatic/raunchy montages). In the meantime, the cast are mostly a mixed bag. Kutcher is definitely handsome and has that typical goofy charm for this kind of genre (what is new anyway?) and not surprisingly, his character is pretty much the same old role we have seen him countless times before. But Natalie Portman... that is the biggest question here. What the heck is she doing here anyway? Other than a would-be reason she might be doing this for easy paycheck or possible need to "let loose" after doing BLACK SWAN, she doesn't excel much here. Okay, maybe there's a few moments she managed to balance her lightweight acting way between serious and funny without missing a beat. The rest of the supporting actors are equally decent, and most of them are benefited from their improvisational acting.

Now where is his better-talented son, Jason, when we need him the most? Note to Ivan: better get polished up for the long-gestating GHOSTBUSTERS III instead.

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