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No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IT’S been so long since Hollywood delivered a genuinely satisfying romantic comedy that even one that comes close is kind of worth shouting about, albeit quietly.

No Strings Attached is no classic rom-com (far from it) but it at least tries to be smarter than most. A contemporary update of When Harry Met Sally that dares to further the question, Ivan Reitman’s film dares to ask whether best friends can become sex friends without complications.

It’s an intriguing question that opts for the obvious answer. But the presence of Natalie Portman, as well as a smarter than average supporting cast, does at least mean you can have some fun along the way.

Emma (Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are the friends in question, although best friends is one of several stretches given that their bonding is intermittent at best over the course of many years.

But while things start out frisky, sexy and playful, Adam begins to yearn for more. Can he cast his feelings aside, though, for the sake of the friendship, or will Emma come to her senses and let her own true feelings prevail.

Reitman’s film, based on a screenplay from Elizabeth Meriwether, does take plenty of risks early on as it attempts to balance some gross out style comedy more befitting the Judd Apatow brand with the moves required of a more conventional rom-com – albeit one that places the man as the one with feelings!

In doing so, it plays to the strengths of a strong supporting cast with the likes of indie darling Greta Gerwig and Lake Bell standing out as, respectively, one of Portman’s best friends and Kutcher’s kooky manager, as well as Kevin Kline, as Kutcher’s juvenile dad and Olivia Thirlby and Jake M. Johnson.

Portman and Kutcher also make an amiable, even believable, odd couple – one that verbally jousts well, while tapping into a nicely self-depracating line of humour.

She gives the genre more brains than is normal, while playing down on the neurotic elements, while Kutcher steps up to the challenge of appearing alongside one of his more talented co-stars.

The humour is fun, too, especially when veering towards the edgy. This could be the first film to make jokes out of a woman’s time of the month, but the way it does so is funny rather than crass, and one of several rude talking points for guys and gals to discuss afterwards.

It’s just a shame that Reitman opts out during the film’s last act, preferring to go down the conventional rom-com route of having his star duo break up and make up rather than trying something braver and possibly more real.

He also drags out proceedings way longer than necessary, while callously discarding or ‘happy ending’ some of the film’s more interesting characters.

In doing so, he threatens to undermine the good work he has done in the build-up.

But then, as ever with the majority of mainstream Hollywood fare, you can’t take risks without some strings attached. To the overall detriment of everyone concerned!

Certificate: 15
Running time: 107mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 27, 2011