No Strings Attached Review
The stars of Black Swan (Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis) decided to follow up their success with that film with two separate films with similar plots. Portman starred in No Strings Attached, a film about a friends-with-benefits relationship, while Kunis starred in Friends With Benefits, which you could guess the plot from the title. If the later is as good as the former then we luckily won't be in for a bad experience. Despite being filled with numerous cliches, No Strings Attached is a solid film with another great performance from Natalie Portman.
Once upon a time, No Strings Attached was on Hollywood's Black List (a list of the best unproduced screenplays). There are remnants of what could have been a brilliant film (instead of the mediocre story about two childhood friends agreeing to have a friends-with-benefits relationship before falling for each other) but there must have been some major tweaks (especially in the second half of the film) from Elizabeth Meriwether's original screenplay. Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) directed the film and it is obvious that he has lost some of his directing luster. Fortunately, he has enough left to get the film across the finish line.
My major worry before watching this film was having Ashton Kutcher as the leading man. I have never seen Kutcher give an even decent performance in a film. Luckily, Kutcher somehow finds away to get rid of his personality in the film. Originally, I was taken out of the film when ever he was on screen, but something happened about a third of the way through where I completely forgot Kutcher was in the film. This doesn't mean Kutcher didn't have screentime, or gave a good performance, it's just that his obnoxious personality never got in the way of the film.
The thing that really saved this film from of all of its shortcomings, though, were the actresses. Despite some early thoughts that this would be the "Norbit" to Natalie Portman's Oscar chances, this film only further proved why she is one of the great actresses of our generation. The material she is given is weak, no doubt, but she gave this film a lot of credibility when it probably didn't deserve it. She actually saves the film with some pretty fantastic dramatic work in the final act (at the same exact time the film is almost falling apart with the cliches pounding away). The supporting cast is mostly female and it is a pretty solid supporting cast (despite no one getting much screen time). Greta Gerwig continues to prove she is a revelation of acting. In her big breakthrough, Greenberg, she proved to us all that she could be one of the best dramatic actresses in the business. Here she proves she has some major comedic chops to boot. Mindy Kaling and Lake Bell also make the most of their very limited screentime as a friend of Natalie Portman's character and as a secretary at the tv show Ashton Kutcher's character works for respectively.
While it won't be one of the best comedies of the years (let alone films), No Strings Attached is a surprisingly capable film.
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