No Strings Attached works precisely for one reason, its script. Paramount Pictures, the studio backing the film, allowed the script to be R rated, meaning that “grown up” words, the ones that are four letters and need to be bleeped out from standard radio and television could be included. For a film that is about casual sex–one that tries to portray its characters as realistic–these words need to be included in the characters’ dialogue. So, yes, thank you Paramount for allowing the script to be R rated.
The plot centers on two characters who have been friends for many years, seeing each other only once in a while over that timeframe. We see each encounter through flashbacks right at the beginning of the film. Eventually, we move to the present, where Emma (Natalie Portman) has moved into the same city as Adam (Ashton Kutcher). They meet up, and decide that they should hang out some time.
Adam ended a relationship with his girlfriend months ago, and one day finds out that his father is now dating the same girl. After some razzing by his friends, he decides to drunkenly call every girl’s number that is in his cell phone, in hopes that one of them will have sex with him.
He eventually passes out, waking up naked in the company of four people, one of which happens to be Emma. They end up having sex, and decide to be “sex buddies”. They won’t be in a formal relationship, but they will call one another up if they are “in the mood”, so to speak. If either character starts to actually feel attraction for the other, they would call this agreement off, and move on with their lives. No feelings would be involved in their interactions with one another, and therefore there would be none hurt of things went sour.
“Where’s the conflict?” is a question that you might be thinking to yourself right now. Well, that comes from one of the characters (no, I won’t tell you which), developing feelings for the other. The rest of the film focuses on the characters’ relationship following this revelation.
If you are now thinking to yourself that you know almost exactly how the movie ends, well then you aren’t alone. Just by the trailer for No Strings Attached, it’s not difficult to figure out the film’s conclusion. It won’t throw many curveballs your way throughout, and is overall fairly predictable, with only a couple twists that are really any bit surprising. And even those are only surprising because of their timing, not because of what the twist actually was.
See, near the end–or at least, what I thought was going to be the end–the film makes a habit of not wanting to finish. There were several points when it could have ended, and it would have felt like a perfect way to conclude. Then it continues, throwing in another twist just as an excuse to keep playing.
I’m not telling you this as a complaint either, so please don’t take it that way. I didn’t want the film to end. I liked the characters, and I wanted to continue to see what would happen to them. In fact, when No Strings Attached finally did wrap-up, I think they chose the wrong point to end it. It ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger, where as if it finished earlier, that wouldn’t have happened.
As a matter of fact, the ending was actually the worst part of the film, just because it didn’t really give a solid conclusion to the story. And no, I’m not hoping for a sequel, even though one is definitely possible. Does that information make you second-guess how you think the film will end? It probably shouldn’t.
Anyway, thanks to the R-rated script, the characters actually felt believable and realistic. They still suffer from some of the flaws that come from being in a romantic comedy, mainly their awkward interactions with almost everyone and their somewhat idealistic nature, but that comes with the territory. They are both likable characters, who are actually fair well acted for this kind of thing.
Natalie Portman especially gives a very solid performance, actually being the more energetic person in the duo. Ashton Kutcher is someone I’ve been told isn’t a very good actor, and while I didn’t feel he was great, sometimes not really seeming 100% on-board with what he was supposed to be doing, he was competent as the more reserved Adam. The pair had an easy-going chemistry, and because of the script, felt real enough to believe in.
Thanks to the characters being believable and likable, when the film tries to make you emotional, it succeeds. You want to see both characters happy, and when they aren’t, you feel sad yourself. When things go right, you almost want to cheer, although it doesn’t work quite that well. You’ll feel emotion, but not enough to actually bring it out of you. This isn’t a tear-jerker or a feel-good film, despite having moments that come close to these levels.
No, what No Strings Attached tries to do most is to make you laugh. And it will do so, as it is a very funny film. The aforementioned awkward moments and timing are quite charming, the dialogue will make you laugh, and even some of the situations, (sadly many of them ruined in the trailer), will make you chuckle. It isn’t really a laugh-out-loud film, but one that will make you laugh quietly to yourself, every now and then bringing out a full-blown laugh.
The main problem I did have with the film was how single-minded it was. It does, quite literally, focus on its two leads, perhaps too much, actually. There are some sub-plots that begin, but don’t receive any attention after the fact. Take, for example, one of Emma’s co-workers, who attempts to make Adam jealous at one point in the film. This happens, and then is left, only to be re-hashed once later on. It makes me wonder what the point was in the first place, as it had no barring on anything that happened within the rest of the film.
I liked No Strings Attached, probably more than I should have. The characters were likable, the plot, while predictable, was nevertheless fun to watch and the film was on the whole pretty funny. It doesn’t do anything new to the romantic comedy genre, but it’s an entertaining film that will give you a good time at the theatre, and that’s really all you can ask for.