No Strings Attached

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"We're sluts, Emma! We're dirty dirty sluts! "

Sept 12, 2011

I'm really not sure how it happens but every couple of years in Hollywood we get movies released which more or less have identical plotlines within a couple of months of each other. It's easy to accuse the later release of copying the former but knowing how long it takes for a film to enter production is normally down to coincidence(more on that in an upcoming feature). This year we managed to get two movies about Fuck buddies. That's what they are, I don't care how they word it (in the films) to make it sound more wholesome. Below you'll find a review for No Strings Attached Click Here to be taken to the Friends with Benefits review.

Let's be honest this film wasn't made for me. It's a romantic comedy and I'd hardly call that my favourite genre. Even so I don't cry fail when I see one as I can always find something to enjoy or relate to in most flicks. I'm not gonna lie I even have a few in my DVD collection which include Pretty Woman, 10 Things I hate about you and Sex in the City (Don't judge me, I know you've all seen it). No strings attached look like it could pass for mild entertainment with its risqué storyline, focus on comedy (at least that what the trailer had me thinking) and above all it had Natalie Portman (that guarantees I was going to see the film at least once.

I want to make it clear that I watched this film with the same open mindedness that I would with any film. I'm not judging a genre I hate just one that I'm less fond of. I want you to know this because I want you to know that this film really is quite shite and not worth your time. I want you to know that that is based on the products quality to the Rom Com genre and not any bias on my part. Here we go.

Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) met a couple of times throughout their lives. It's hard to call them friends but more acquaintances. After a drunken scuffle one night Emma and Adam decide to become sex buddies with no strings attached. As with every time this plot device is used in film things become more complicated as they grow feelings for one another.

Before we get into the basics can I just say why I hate this type of plot device when it turns up in film and TV. Very rarely is there any variation in how things play out. Why is it never possible that they could have sex and not fall in love? Hollywood wants us to believe that sex comes from an act of love but in real life that's far from true. People who know each other (let's not call them friends) can have casual relations without succumbing to emotion. Another issue I have is that both parties (in the film world) always feel the same, is it entirely out of the realm of possibility that only one feels a connection and the other doesn't, it can happen in real life and opens up a whole more interesting dynamic to explore, at least it does to me anyway. Ranting's aside this is not where the film fails.

Firstly this is not the type of film you watch for plot. In fact most rom coms are not the type of films you watch for plot. With every film taking a similar approach we watch them to see the chemistry between the cast and how they portray similar events. This is where the film fails because the cast, no matter how well-meaning just don't work together.

There's no doubt in my mind that Natalie Portman is a fantastic actress. She has made many rom coms over the years so this is nothing new to her but all the while I felt she was disinterested and bored with the film. Her chemistry with Kutcher is almost non-existent, while that worked to explain why they became sexual explorers (it's so hard thinking up these foolish terms) I'm afraid I don't by her eventual "passion" for him.

Aston Kutcher is an actor I think gets a bad rap. While yes he has a goofy face and has more in common with a plank of wood at times he can pull out some excellent performances. While it may not be the popular opinion I think he did a fantastic job in the Butterfly Effect. That said when it comes to comedy I expect slapstick from him as he really has trouble pulling off the more subtle asides. That's a shame because the comedy her is more subtle focusing on the romantic side of the plot. With Kutcher's silly slanted grin every time he does something silly I wanted to slap him across the chops and shout "come on man this is a serious scene". What was the director thinking?

Ivan Reitman was the director and had I known that I may have actually skipped this (no that's not true Natalie was in it). Reitman was a man I could turn to in delivering the goods. From Ghostbusters to Dave he knew how to mix comedy and drama and then just stopped. His output of late is one foolish piece after another and while each had potential the tones is never consistent. Father's Day, Evolution, My Super Ex-girlfriend all films that could have been great but only turned out good which makes them even more frustrating to watch.

When I looked this film up I wanted to find something that would explain where this went wrong and I think I found it. Supposedly written as a rom com from a feminist's point of view. I have nothing against feminism but in all the films I watch it seems that Hollywood confuse feminism in a female with being a bitch. Portman's character is made so cold and uncaring (her character doesn't do well with emotion) because she's focusing on her career as a doctor? I didn't buy it for a second.

Her character is shown as a teenager as with the same traits. In uni (college for the yanks) she takes Kutcher (whose character obviously likes her) to her dad's funeral to piss off her mum. That is not a strong willed woman but a bitch that doesn't deserve happiness. She's not the only female character that seems out of place two supporting characters develop lesbian tendencies for no real reason and Kutcher ex is shown as nothing more than a gold digger. To me that is doing more damage to female perception on film than any other rom com where the female portrays a more traditional role. No Strings Attached = Feminism fail.

I can't tell you how disappointed I was with this. I went in expecting a mediocre experience and failed to get that. All this did was sour me on the idea that this premise can't sustain a whole movie. I decided that I wasn't going to the cinema to watch this type of thing again and would wait a DVD release or a screening on TV (I don't know why when it comes to films I always go back on what I decide).

Despite everything not only did I go back to the cinema for another rom com but one with the exact same premise. Click Here to see my Friends with Benefits review. Gulp

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