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No Strings Attached
Genre Romance
 
Review:

No Strings Attached is not about puppets. It's a film about friends with benefits or f**k buddies, a fairly new term that has developed over the last twenty years. It's that agreed upon relational state that prioritizes sex over intimacy in a user relationship. Some would say this describes how every relationship they've been in has worked, but in this case it's a two-way street. Well, there's the problem. At some point, the sexual intimacy of a friends with benefits arrangement leads to one partner becoming ensnared in the superficial intimacy and in so doing, developing something known as 'feelings'.

One of the cornerstones of this type of arrangement is complete honesty from the start. This, ironically, is the very thing that weighs in on the "friendship" when one f-buddy is forced to announce that they have fallen in infatuation (love) with the other - creating a rift and forcing a superficial one-way "relationship" or a break-up. Easy sex with no strings attached is exactly where our two f-buddies find themselves in No Strings Attached, a romantic comedy about the benefits and pitfalls of doing your buddy.

Ashton Kutcher has been fighting the toy boy image for quite some time. It didn't help that he got involved with Demi Moore and perhaps his boyish good looks have been more of a double-edged razor than a sword. If you can't beat them, join them seems to have been his motto over the last two years... trying his hand at being a spy opposite Katherine Heigl (who could have been his mom) in Killers, getting his kit off with Anne Heche in Spread and most recently being Adam, Natalie Portman's play thing in No Strings Attached.

Portman is a better actor than Kutcher, even before she cut up those ballet pumps and went crazy. As a producer on No Strings Attached, she's financially committed and has fully immersed herself into the role of Emma. Although, it has to be said - she's more suited to drama. Light romantic comedy is too vacant for our little black swan and she just seems a little out of sorts, like a porcelain doll in a sweet shop.

The premise relies on good chemistry between the co-leads, which has been achieved to some extent... not perfect, but convincing. The romance aspect of No Strings Attached works and the charm of the leads helps carry the film. It's a fairly surprising film for Ghostbusters III director Ivan Reitman, whose films have generally been a bit wacky and funny. Apart from some good recurring menstrual humour, the script is a little flat on comic energy forcing the central relationship into the limelight.

The supporting characters mean well with Kevin Kline, Lake Bell and even Cary Elwes taking part, but the film trips into the same rut as Love and Other Drugs. The pivotal, highly sexual relationship is actually a serious matter and the director's just can't seem to extract the lighter side of being able to call someone up at any time of the day and "do it". Edward Zwick's Love and Other Drugs was a more confusing genre mix, but No Strings Attached manages to keep within the confines of "romcom" using a similar co-lead structure of heart throb guy and a jaw-dropping classic beauty.

The whole film just doesn't quite gel, especially when the characters are using superficial means to win each other over. The heartwarming aspect of the relationship is frozen over to the point that when their hearts start melting, the audience has already written the characters off as less-than-human. The transition is just one step too far and we miss the connecting emotion - distancing us from the story altogether.

Unfortunately this is the case with No Strings Attached. We want to fall in love with the characters, but their selfish use-or-be-used agendas create a buffer and alienate us. Without the safety net of hilarious comedy or inexplicable chemistry, the whole affair becomes a bit of a slog... likable to a point, somewhat entertaining but void of involvement and too cold for the audience to latch onto. "Romcoms" are meant to be funny and heartwarming... No Strings Attached is mild on both counts.

The bottom line: Middling.

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