For example: I simply refused to see No Strings Attached when it hit theaters, despite the fact that the trailers indicated that Natalie Portman would also be featured in the film in various states of undress. As far as I was concerned, “Natalie Portman” was cancelled out by “Ashton Kutcher”, and once you factored in the fact that No Strings Attached is– above all things– a romantic-comedy, there didn’t seem to be any reason for me to waste my time with the film. And no one wants to have their opinion of Natalie Portman tarnished. As such, I steered clear of the film until the Blu-ray arrived on my porch, and it took every ounce of willpower in my body to sit myself down on the couch to watch it unfold. I expected Yogi Bear levels of disaster.
So, imagine my surprise when I discovered No Strings Attached to be a slightly above-average, highly-likable, gleefully-raunchy-in-places rom-com (wow, that’s a whole bunch of dashes). No Strings Attached isn’t the best romantic comedy you’ll ever see, and it probably won’t convince you that Ashton Kutcher’s the best on-screen presence since Christoph Waltz, but it will make you laugh (infrequently, yes, but moreso than you might expect), and if you’re being suckered into a “chick flick” night with your lady-friend, there are far worse ways to spend your time (Killers, I name-drop you again).
In Strings, Adam (Kutcher) and Emma (Portman) meet-cute when they’re very young, in a prologue that takes place fifteen years before the movie begins in earnest. Even then, Emma’s withdrawn, unemotional, and not-too-thrilled with the idea of emotional connections. In that time, Adam has become an unpaid writer/producer-of-some-sort on a Glee-like TV show, while Emma has become a nurse/doctor-type (y’know: works insane hours in a hospital, lives with a crew of other med students, hangs out in places with a lot of sailboats).
The two begin a relationship based entirely upon using one another for sex, with the agreement being that neither will get emotionally attached
After learning something disturbing (and hilarious) about his father, Adam goes on a drunken rampage that ends with him waking up the morning after in Emma’s apartment. Adam seems convinced that it’s Emma who’ll break this rule first, but we already know that he’s the one that’s in trouble. For the most part, Strings deals with these two characters in a largely predictable– but still very entertaining– way. You know they’re gonna end up together, it’s just a matter of how it’ll happen and how many misunderstandings there’ll be along the way. Y’know: just like every other romantic comedy.
Adam, on the other hand, is almost relentlessly positive, sees the power in love, and seems destined to have some sort of relationship with Emma going forward: they reunite again ten years later at a college party, hook-up, and then don’t see one another again until the present
The film shines in its writing, which is uncommonly good for this sub-genre. It’s also surprisingly dirty in places, but never so much so that it becomes a “raunchy comedy”. Making the really dirty moments infrequent also guarantees that they’re going to pack more of a punch, and I really appreciated the way that screenwriter Elizabeth Meriweather handled this balancing act. There were a few lines that actually made me (and the person I watched the film with) belly-laugh, and that’s. surprising, all things considered. If you’d told me a week ago that I’d watch and kinda-sorta-pretty-much enjoy an Ashton Kutcher rom-com, I would have laughed just before spitting into your lying face. But there I sat, watching, kinda-laughing from time to time (the line that Ashton’s competition for Emma gets about “using big words around her” was particularly solid), not hating my existence as the Blu-ray spun through its course inside my PS3. No one’s more surprised about this than I am.