No Strings Attached

a film by Ivan Reitman

I cannot say I actually liked Ivan Reitman's latest film, the Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher rom-com, No Strings Attached, but in a bid to sound at least a little bit open-minded when it comes to the modern-day Hollywoodie, I cannot say I actually disliked it either. This open-ended (and not necessarily open-minded) take on the movie is more than one would, or could expect from a critic whose job it is to show the reader the errors of a film's ways. Filled to the brim (but not overflowing like many a typical modern-day rom-com) with all the right ingredients for such a genre piece, this story of two quite well-off, late twentysomethings who decide to engage in a friends-with-benefits type of relationship, with the obvious, inevitable outcome, comes off a lot less cloying and sickly sweet than anyone could have ever hoped for - and I think this lack of downright disgust (a far thing from true praise I can assure you) is the best one can hope for from a movie such as this.

With fresh Oscar nominee Natalie Portman playing a cute but standoffish hospital resident and the oft-maligned Cougar poster-boy Ashton Kutcher as her would-be boyfriend (read: happily satisfied and satisfying fuck buddy) and TV assistant-cum-screenwriter, Reitman's film certainly has its moments, mainly due to these two actors (we all knew Portman had it in her, and she does outshine her costar, but Kutcher is surprisingly charming in his own right) and does manage more than a handful of legit, if not overly-hearty laughs, and gives off a somewhat old-school charm rarely seen in today's mainstream cinema (though not enough to warrant a reevaluation of the film), even if it does, more often than not, fall prey to the cliche'd traps and formulaic pitfalls of the genre it attempts to embody.

Also featuring Mumblecore darling Greta Gerwig as the requisite best friend of Portman's character (in a rather lackluster role that never gives the talented actress the material she deserves), Lake Bell as an especially overwhelming (and overwhelmed) colleague of Kutcher's on the Glee-like show for which he works, and for whom she falls (think Alvy Singer meets Carole Lombard), and Kevin Kline in an hilarious performance as Kutcher's egomaniacal, has-been lothario TV star father who makes a habit out of hooking up with his son's former flings (truly the shining star of the film), No Strings Attached is by no means the insipid little trifle this critic had expected going in (though it does have the Reitman touch - and that is not necessarily a good thing), but even the surprising turn by Mr. Kutcher and the not-so surprising turn by Ms. Portman are enough to take the film too far out of the expected, but thankfully never quite realized mire of probability. I suppose in the end, that is as far as I can go in my bid to sound at least a little open-minded about the modern-day Hollywoodie. [01/27/11]