Coming off a Golden Globe win for perhaps the most challenging role of her career in Black Swan, you might think that Natalie Portman would just want to forget she was involved in No Strings Attached. But she actually accomplishes another daunting task onscreen with this film: she makes a cliché-filled genre feel fresh. The actress can be proud of her work in this movie, because if anything, it's her delightful comic turn as Emma that makes the film entertaining.
There's no new ground broken in the plot (see exhibit A), as Emma and her friend Adam (Ashton Kutcher) decide that a real relationship is too much work, and settle for sex with — you got it — no strings attached. Naturally, the arrangement gets complicated when Emma and Adam develop feelings for each other, and even a person who has never seen a movie before will predict what becomes of them. But is it worth taking the ride anyway? Thanks to a funny script and fantastic cast, it is. Find out why when you
No Strings Attached gives Portman the chance to make her mark as a comedic actress. She has the best lines and engages in the physical comedy the actress is rarely afforded — it's like the movie lets Portman's freak flag fly, and you can tell that she's enjoying every minute of it. Her carefree attitude sparkles, and makes the audience feel it too. Portman has such precise timing you wonder why she doesn't do more comedy (it bodes well for her upcoming role in Your Highness).
The reason why Kutcher is enjoyable is because he's a complement to Portman. He takes a more subdued angle on Adam than what we're used to seeing from the actor. Rather than competing with Portman for laughs, Kutcher lets her be the ham, making him a straight man of sorts. That contrast is important; it makes them more believable as a pair, and it's a vital asset to their strong chemistry.
Meanwhile, the supporting cast is a collection of hilarious personalities. Greta Gerwig and Mindy Kaling are Emma's witty roommates who provide more than just comic relief. They're not simply thrown in to give Emma relationship advice, and my only complaint about them is that they should have been given more screen time. Lake Bell continues to prove her comedic versatility as Adam's uptight boss, and Kevin Kline as Adam's dad is effortlessly brilliant.
No Strings Attached has one of the funnier scripts for a movie of its kind, and there's just the right amount of raunchiness: enough to serve as an accurate portrayal of a group of late twenty-somethings, but not too much to offend. The right balance between humor and sweetness helps No Strings Attached pull off what every other romantic comedy strives for: it gives you a couple you sincerely root for.