'No Strings' beats rom-com formula



Article Published: Jan. 27, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'No Strings' beats rom-com formula

Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher star in 'No Strings Attached.'



frank@mountaintimes.com

Trailers can be deceiving.

"No Strings Attached" is case in point, as its overplayed trailer ceaselessly touted the typical romantic comedy conventions.

Fortunately, the film was helmed by comedy guru Ivan Reitman ("Ghostbusters"), who knows a thing or two about funny.

Like most romantic comedies, you know how it's going to end before it even starts, and "No Strings Attached" is no exception. But Reitman's expert direction and a more-funny-than-not screenplay offer plenty of entertaining wiggle room in the standard rom-com framework.

Natalie Portman ("Black Swan") and Ashton Kutcher ("Dude, Where's My Car?") are Emma and Adam, casual acquaintances of 15 years.

Adam's an aspiring TV writer, living in the shadow of his catchphrase-toting sitcom celebrity father (Kevin Kline, "A Fish Called Wanda"), who's just happened to snag Adam's ex-girlfriend (Ophelia Lovibond, "Nowhere Boy") as his own.

He catches up with workaholic doctor Emma, and, after an impromptu morning quickie, they decide to be "friends with benefits," openly using each other for sex and nothing more.

With dating, snuggling, jealousy and emergency-contact listing apparently out of the picture, Emma and Adam continue their no-strings-attached relationship, agreeing to call it quits should one or the other develop feelings.

Needless to say, it doesn't take long till one of them does. In a rom-com role reversal, screenwriter Elizabeth Meriwether has Adam get mushy with a reluctant Emma, who refuses, harboring an unexplained dislike toward the whole relationship thing.

But Portman and Kutcher share surprisingly good chemistry, making Emma's reasoning (or lack thereof) seem somewhat questionable, if not outright unfounded.

Fortunately, there aren't many "Just get together already" moments, thanks mainly to Reitman's foresight and timeliness.

As "No Strings" takes a conventional turn for the cliched, Reitman's right there to make it a funny turn, with some well-timed, laugh-out-loud jokes to keep things moving at an amusing pace.

This is thanks, in part, to the film's capable supporting cast, namely Kline, Lake Bell ("It's Complicated") and rapper Ludacris.

"No Strings Attached" undoubtedly follows formula, but with Reitman's clever ingredients, it's a romantic comedy that doesn't quite fit the mold and a recipe others could follow.

"No Strings Attached," rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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