Movie Review: “No Strings Attached”

(*½) I went into this movie with higher hopes than I should have had. This was Ivan Reitman. The Ivan Reitman! Ghostbusters! Natalie Portman was at the top of her game and I’m an Ashton Kutcher apologist. Add in Mindy Kaling and you’ve got a great night for me. Well something went wrong. The horribly disjointed end product fizzled out and underused all of my favorite actors.

The biggest problem with the movie is not in Natalie Portman’s character’s weak moral compass and capricious mood swings, nor is it in Ashton Kutcher’s wooden faced reaction to everything, including finding out his ex-girlfriend is sleeping with his dad (spoiler?). The worst part is the screenplay.

Do you know how you can watch a movie and when you’re done you think, “Gee, I could write a better movie than that?” This movie was so bad I literally started a screenplay. I knew whatever collection of words I put on paper would be better. It involved the most obvious exposition I’ve seen in a while, loose ends a plenty (her dad’s funeral?), crazy characters that are somewhere between over-the-top and senseless, and no actual emotions. 

There are three actors and one great montage that save this movie. As already mentioned, Mindy Kaling plays the ethnically vague Shira, a friend of Emma (So that’s Portman’s name!). She offers the wry wit and sass that a friend is supposed to deliver.

In order of predictability of enjoyment, the montage comes next. Only once do we get a fun sex montage in the movie. The movie is called Friends with Benefits people! If I wanted to watch boring sex, I’d go to see Closer (that’s a lie. I wouldn’t see that movie again ever). But there is one montage in the beginning where we get lots of fun, sometimes racy, sometimes silly, frequently both, sex scenes that really pop. My favorite moment was when Emma, dressed as a doctor, was about to give a “physical checkup” to the naked Adam (Kutcher).

The first unpredictable scene stealer is Greta Gerwig. I hated the movie Greenberg and as that was my first Gerwig exposure, I hated her too! But she was so charming in this. Her heavily lauded naturalness was mixed with a touch of knowing. She seemed to know that she wasn’t in a film where her casual camera presence would work, so she gave it some extra umph. Her comedic timing saved the film.

The most unpredictable, however, has to go to Ludacris! He was Wallace, a friend of Adam’s (See, in rom-coms all of the boys only have guy friends, and all of the girls, well the only have a posse of girls/gay men). He didn’t do anything particularly wild, but he was just funny. I wish the best for him.

Everyone else was disappointing, and looking at the cast list, I don’t even remember Cary Elwes being in it. Another horrible #1 Box Office Movie. But it was January. I’ll forgive a little.

 

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