Here is the first big problem with No Strings Attached. It’s not Friends With Benefits. Now, good grief, I’m not saying that Friends With Benefits is the breezy rom-com that I measure all others against but it’s a fact that both No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits cover the same ground, with the latter being the much better movie. In fact, as I saw Friends With Benefits last year I couldn’t help using that title when trying to discuss this movie. I almost wrote Friends With Benefits in the post heading above. It’s the essence of this film and the phrase is even used at one point, which makes comparison and confusion almost inevitable.
The second big problem with No Strings Attached is that it’s just not very good at all. Despite two decent leads (I know that a lot of people dislike Ashton Kutcher but I’ve always found him to be likeable enough and Natalie Portman is pretty much a lovely ray of loveliness in everything she does), the comedy leads to very few laughs, the romance element never has any chemistry to make it believable and the whole thing feels unimaginative and very, very stale.
The central premise is simple – Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher are two attractive young people who decide to try and be, as you might have already gathered, friends with benefits. Of course, the movie questions whether or not that situation can ever work.
Attractive cast? Check. Bland and inoffensive soundtrack? Check. An indie darling and one or two respected elders lending support to the leads? Greta Gerwig, Kevin Kline and Cary Elwes = check.
The script by Elizabeth Meriwether may not be very lively or all that amusing but I found that easy to forgive because, frankly, I don’t know who Elizabeth Meriwether is and this may have been her first full screenplay (which, in fact, it is). What I find sad is the fact that Ivan Reitman directed this. Most of the cast have had their share of mis-steps, Meriwether has plenty of time ahead of her to make progress and Hollywood is always trying to push a rom-com on audiences they hope will lap it up. But Ivan Reitman, while far from perfect, has always managed to provide me with reasonable entertainment. I can admit that I even chuckled at a few moments in My Super Ex-Girlfriend (okay, not too many moments but I chuckled nonetheless). This is the worst thing that I’ve seen from him and, from all those involved, he really should have known better.
DIRECTOR: IVAN REITMAN
WRITER: ELIZABETH MERIWETHER
STARS: ASHTON KUTCHER, NATALIE PORTMAN, KEVIN KLINE, GRETA GERWIG, JAKE JOHNSON, LUDACRIS, CARY ELWES, MINDY KALING, LAKE BELL, OLIVIA THIRLBY
RUNTIME: 108 MINS APPROX