No Strings Attached (2011)
No Strings Attached
Director: Ivan Reitman
Writers: Elizabeth Meriwether, Michael Samonek
Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Ludacris, Olivia Thirlby, Jake M. Johnson, Mindy Kaling, Talia Balsam, Ophelia Lovibond, Guy Branum, Ben Lawson, Jennifer Irwin
Synopsis: Occasionally in the 15 years since summer camp, Adam and Emma cross paths. When he discovers that an ex-girlfriend is living with his dad, he gets drunk, calls every woman in his cell phone contact list, and ends up passed out naked in her living room. By this time, she's a medical resident in L.A. and he's a gopher on a "Glee"-like TV series, hoping to be a writer. She guards her emotions (calling her father's funeral "a thing"), so after a quick shag in the moments she has before leaving for the hospital, she asks if he wants a no-strings-attached, sex-only relationship, without romance or complications. A prescription for fun or for disaster?
MPAA Rating: Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material
The White Swan Review
Having a friendship that comes with sexual benefits? Is that a recipe for steamy sexual stimulation without all the bulls*** responsibilities of a relationship coming into play? Or is it just a recipe for disaster? Who really knows? However, that's not stopping Ivan Reitman and his writers from exploring that very same concept here. For those wondering why I'm titling this review "The White Swan Review", it has a lot to do with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis' hit film last year, "The Black Swan." Plus, they're both acting in films with eerily similar concepts after that movie; hence the title of this review. But don't worry, the "Black Swan Review" will be coming it's way soon.
To get back to the review, the story starts off with Emma (Stefanie Scott) and Adam (Dylan Hayes), who're both fourteen years old. Adam and Emma are sitting out on a tire swing set together, as she tries to console Adam over his parents' impending divorce. Being emotionally distant at an early age, she admits that she's not really great at consoling others, but did say that she believed that nobody is ever meant to be with someone else forever. Miraculously, this cheers up young Adam, as he quickly asks Emma if he can finger her to celebrate. No, I'm not kidding, as he directly asks her, "Can I finger you?" If you don't know what that term means, then you'll just have to look it up for yourselves, as I'd get into too much trouble if I tried to explain it. Needless to say, Emma says no flirtatiously.
Ten years later, the characters meet up again in college. This time the roles are played by Ashton Kutcher (Adam) and Natalie Portman (Emma). As one would probably expect, Adam turns out to be an all around annoying optimistic guy; while Emma turns out to be a bit emotionally distant, and socially inept as well. Unfortunately, the dialogue doesn't improve as the characters get older, since it remains pretty cheesy throughout the movie. Which leads to the strange dialogue they exchange after meeting again in college at a frat party:
Adam: I like you.
Emma: You barely even know me.
Adam: But I still really like you.
Granted, Adam was drunk in this scene, but it still comes off as cheesy. However, this does lead to her inviting Adam out on a date to....a FUNERAL for her deceased father. Of course, this also leads to another strange moment where she introduces Adam to her mother, as the guy who allegedly raped her when she was fourteen years old. Yep, she actually says this, but for some reason, Adam still likes her. Although, I think most normal people would've probably backed off Emma if this incident happened. Then again, I'm not much of an expert on love, so I'm sure many will probably correct me on that. Besides, it wouldn't be much of a film if Adam didn't still like her after that incident anyway.
A few years later, Adam and Emma meet again after college. Emma is a nurse, who is still socially inept, and suffers from commitment issues. Whereas Adam, he's still the "happy go lucky schmuck" that he was in college, but he's working as a gopher for a "Glee" like TV show; while yearning to become a screenwriter someday. Unlike the previous times we're shown Adam and Emma interacting, the conversation between them is a bit more plausible, and it's one of the rare scenes that you can sense somewhat of an unforced chemistry between them. Sadly, these type of genuine scenes are rare in this movie, as most of the romance is often forced, rushed, and cliched ridden.
Anyway, to get back on point here, Adam finds out that his father, Alvin (Kevin Kline), is currently dating one of his ex girlfriends. Of course, this angers Adam to see his ex dating his father, so he decides to call every girl that he knows until one of them agrees to sleep with him. Gee, great plan. This inevitably leads to him waking up naked in Emma's apartment, where her hospital friends decide to have a bit of fun with poor Adam, as he doesn't remember the night before. After a funny scene of playful banter, Emma invites Adam to her room to explain what really happened last night. No, it's not what you might think, but it does inevitably lead to Adam and Emma to having forty five seconds of sex. After this, Adam tries to woo Emma into being his girlfriend, but she still suffers from commitment issues, yet she doesn't want to lose him either. Therefore, they strike a compromise of becoming friends with benefits. No dating. No emotional attachment. Just pure guilt free sex whenever they desire it.
Of course, Adam tells all his guy friends about his situation, and they seemingly tell the entire freaking town, as all the characters in this movie know about their agreement. What is this high school? Anyway, his guy friends encourage his no strings attached relationship by saying such things like, "Your living every man's dream." Meanwhile, Emma tells her girlfriends at her work, and they seemingly tell everybody as well. Gee, isn't that nice? Anyway, they give her a hard time about why she doesn't just hook up with Adam if she likes him so much, but she's scared of getting hurt, so she prefers the no strings attached relationship.
To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect coming into this movie, but I'm sure I expected more than this. Not only are most of the scenes with Adam and Emma often forced, rushed and cliched, but the dialogue is just horrible. Plus, the fact that all the characters act like they're fresh out of high school is just freaking annoying as sin. In fact, a part of me wishes I could have yelled at the characters by saying, "ACT YOUR OWN AGE!" Sorry, I had to vent that out.
Although to be fair, I wouldn't go out on a limb to say this is a completely bad movie, as it does have it's moments. Plus, I'm sure most fans of romantic comedies won't mind some of the cheesiness it provides. Besides, it's not as bad as some of the garbage we've seen from Adam Sandler in recent years. (cringes)
Overall, if you're just looking for a decent romantic comedy to rent on a Friday evening, then you might find yourself drawn to this type of film. However, if you're expecting a great romantic comedy along the lines of "It Happened One Night", "Mr. Deeds Goes To Town" or "500 Days of Summer", then you'll definitely be disappointed by "No Strings Attached." In the end, I'd have to give this movie a two out of four. It's fairly decent for what it's supposed to be, but I wouldn't expect too much more out of it. Stay tuned for "The Black Swan Review" of "Friends with Benefits" coming soon.