Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges
Director: Ivan Reitman
Writer(s): Elizabeth Merriwether, Mike Samonek,
Cinematography: Rogier Stoffers
Original Score: John Debney
Running Time: 108 Mins.
Oh how the mighty have fallen, no not Ashton Kutcher (or Natalie Portman for that matter) rather director of No Strings Attached Ivan Reitman, the man who was at his best during the 80’s comedy heyday of Stripes, Ghostbusters and Twins has long been churning out duff films including Father’s Day, Six Days, Seven Nights and My Super-Ex Girlfriend over the course of the last decade though it was two years ago with Jack Black vehicle Year One that Reitman really hit roc bottom whilst his son seemed to have robbed his father of any talent he once had with Up In The Air, Thank You For Smoking and Juno!
All of which means that it will come as little surprise to learn that No Strings Attached is far from great, though to damn it with faint praise it is a big step up from the abomination of Year One. Part of No Strings Attached’s problem seems to be that this is a very current, and I hate to say it, young film, one that deals with the concept of the “friend with benefits or f**k buddy to use a more brutally honest term, and in this sense is certainly not a tale that seems a good fit for an almost 70-year-old man. In fact knowing this fact (not helped by a cameo from Reitman himself) makes it a somewhat odd experience, like watching a film about f**k buddies with your grandparents…not a pleasant thought!
This is a problem that seems to stretch throughout the material, as I said it is a current, hip and trendy subject matter, and one that needed the assured hand of a man like Judd Apatow to veer between the inevitably “naughty” bits and the human drama, as it is we bounce from the cloying scenes where “true feelings” are revealed and back to those “naughty” scenes, whether it be a threesome or liberal use of the f-bomb for little purpose other than effect…like a small child swearing ‘cos he thinks it is cool!
As a result Kutcher and Portman are just along for the ride, they are both good enough with Kutcher less annoying than he often has a tendency to be and Portman shows more talent here in one scene than she did in the entire running time of Black Swan but they are a slave to the script, rife with cliché and dot to dot plotting, and pedestrian direction that leaves no stand out scenes save for Portman’s touching realisation that she may have blown her “one chance at happiness”! Something else that hampers No Strings Attached, and this is not really the films fault, is that it brings memories of the years other non-committal romance comedy to mind, Love and Other Drugs, a film that managed to do everything this fails at…convincing characters, relationship, balance between comedy and drama etc. It is an unflattering comparison and one that may also ring true for the similarly themed Friends With Benefits, staring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, due out in the summer.
Where No Strings Attached does have more success, and its funniest moments by far, are with the stalwarts Cary Elwes and in particular Kevin Kline as Kutcher’s characters philanthropist father, this is a telling sign and suggests Reitman needs to stick with “grown up” films with the focus on character rather than striving for what he cites as “When Harry Met Sally” for this generation…an unfortunate comparison to draw given the calibre of that film, it is the next Sideways or Up In The Air the “old man” should be looking out for…maybe he needs to take a leaf out of his sons book!
No Strings Attached is passable, meaning it isn’t weak enough to rant about but nor is it good enough to particularly recommend to anyone…unless of course you are a Kevin Kline fan, then go see it for the man isn’t in films nearly enough!