The Reel Deal
NO STRINGS ATTACHED
A Reel Deal Film Review
Film Insight by Tyler Malone
Reel Rating: 2 out of 5
Why do actors always insist on following up Oscar-winning performances with lame roles in sub-par movies? We all remember Halle Berry following Monster’s Ball with Catwoman and Gothika, right? Come on actors, it’s fairly simple: after you finish a role that has Oscar-nominee potential–and especially if there’s any chance you think you might win an Academy Award for your performance–maybe steer clear of the romcom, horror, spoof and superhero genres. What’s so hard about that? I’m looking at you, Natalie…
Natalie Portman will appear in at least three movies in 2011: the humdrum romantic comedy that I’m currently reviewing, No Strings Attached; a superhero film based on one of Marvel comics’ least interesting superheros, Thor; and a weird Medieval stoner fantasy-spoof comedy, Your Highness. Should I just be happy she’s not doing Saw 20 as well and stop whining? Perhaps…
I try to be open-minded when I go to review a film so I won’t dwell on Thor or Your Highness because I admittedly haven’t seen them yet (both will be out in the Summer), though I won’t pretend I’m eagerly awaiting either. But why oh why, Natalie, would you want to do a romantic comedy with, of all people, Ashton Kutcher? Why does anyone but Demi Moore want to do anything with Ashton Kutcher? Has he ever made a good movie? What a terrible way to follow up an Oscar-winning role! Okay, okay, you’re right, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself by assuming that Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Nina Sayers in The Black Swan is Oscar-winning, but let’s face it: if she doesn’t win, the only reason will be that the voters had the sour aftertaste of No Strings Attached lingering in their mouths when it came time to fill out their ballots.
It was really disappointing to see the person who I hope will win Best Actress shouting “That hole is my bitch!” and other similarly embarrassing lines. It’s almost enough to make me root for Annette Bening to take home the statuette for her great performance in The Kids Are All Right. That said, Natalie Portman makes a valiant effort with the mediocre material at her disposal. And, to be honest, No Strings Attached isn’t all that bad, for what it is. Sure, it is formulaic–what romantic comedy isn’t?–but it manages to be less formulaic than just about any recent romcom I can think of. It avoids many of the romcom clichés for about half of the film. We know how it ends, but it’s not solely a paint-by-number chick flick for the better half of the movie, which contains plenty of surprisingly enjoyable moments. Little is memorable, of course, but there were enough laughs sprinkled throughout that it wasn’t the painful experience I feared it would be.
A few scenes–I’m thinking specifically of those involving a milkshake or a mixtape–are sweet and silly, and somehow manage to feel new and escape the modern romcom curse of feeling faked or forced. However, not far past the half-way point, any freshness the film may have had is quickly forgotten. At that point, the actors just go through the motions of separating in order to reunite in the end. When the film does finally plummet into that cliché-mode, it doesn’t half-ass its cheesy conventionality. We get a full-bore cliché-o-rama towards the end. Unfortunately, that second part of the movie really undoes any of the small steps the film had taken to win me over in the first part. The film becomes not only formulaic, but uber-formulaic, as though it has to pay some penance for thinking a bit outside the box for the first half. The characters at that point stop being anything more than cardboard cut-outs. Whatever shreds of chemistry and spontaneity and intrigue the first half of the film had, evaporated completely. The characters begin to feel like puppets masquerading as people. By the time Ashton Kutcher delivers his cringe-inducing “If you come any closer…” line towards the end, you can almost see the puppet strings opening and closing his lips. What begins as No Strings Attached ends, disappointingly, with Strings Attached.
No Strings Attached is a film directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Elizabeth Meriwether and Michael Samonek. It stars Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Kline. A guy and girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but it’s not long before they learn that they want something more.
Written by Tyler Malone
Photography Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Design by Marie Havens