No Strings Attached (2011)
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Premise: Two childhood friends (Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher) reunite as adults and attempt to conduct a strictly sexual relationship.
What Works: Over the last few years there have been a lot of romantic comedies with very frank sexual content such as The 40 Year Old Virgin, Zach and Miri Make a Porno, and Love and Other Drugs, and the better of these films have attempted to make sense of contemporary sexual morays in a post-sexual revolution and post-AIDS American culture. Thankfully, quite a few of these films have been both highly entertaining and fairly insightful, and No Strings Attached is one of the better examples. The film is very funny with its sexual humor as well as its physical and verbal gags and the cast is likeable. Natalie Portman, an actress who usually plays serious and decidedly non-sexual characters, gets to loosen up and Portman is very witty but also emotionally authentic as she indulges her sexual desire but also barricades herself emotionally. Ashton Kutcher is a much maligned actor in the popular press but he is a likable romantic lead and in No Strings Attached he gets the job done as he drives much of the impending romance. No Strings Attached is something of a comeback for Ivan Reitman, a director who had an impressive output of films in the 1980s with Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Twins but had not directed a comically successful film since 2001’s Evolution. With No Strings Attached, Reitman gets his rhythm back and provides the kind of quality storytelling that made his career.
What Doesn’t: The trouble with a lot of the films in this new crop of sex comedies is that, after breaking through traditional taboos and honestly addressing the ins and outs of contemporary romance, the characters almost always end up in a traditional pairing. It is a bit of a cheat, as the films indulge the characters and the audience with the benefits of sexual freedom but do not require either to make a larger paradigm shift in regards to relationships. No Strings Attached falls into this same trap, although, to be fair, it is no guiltier than most other films recent in the genre.
Bottom Line: No Strings Attached is targeted at female audiences, as it is mostly about female wish fulfillment to simultaneously escape from traditionally oppressive sexual morays and fulfill the desire for belonging and intimacy of a traditional romance. However it may muddle these issues, this is a funny and satisfying romantic comedy that will make a provocative date movie or a fun ladies night out.
Episode: #324 (January 30, 2011)