No Strings Attached tries to deviate from usual rom-com routine but unfortunately the final conclusion still remains the same. Natalie Portman plays Emma, an emotionally unavailable woman who doesn’t understand the need to be in a relationship when you can just have fun and be happy. Ashton Kutcher’s character, Adam, is the opposite, but desperate to be with Emma he agrees to a no strings attached/friends with benefits/fun buddies/sex buddies/f**k buddies relationship. However as time goes by they find themselves falling in love with each other and Adam must convince Emma that a relationship is worth the risk.
No Strings Attached opens strong by showing us the first time Emma and Adam meet as teenagers at a summer camp, and shortly after we cut to a scene five years later when they finally meet again. After a series of random meets they exchange numbers, and on an alcoholic fuelled night out Adam drunk dials Emma and wakes up in on her sofa naked, only modestly covered by a tea towel. Adam, having recently got out of a relationship, and Emma who recently started working at the hospital, decide that relationships complicate things so agree to just be friends with benefits.
The problem is that even if it wasn’t a rom-com with preview screenings over Valentine’s Day, everyone sat in the cinema already knows the outcome. It simply isn’t possible to have a lasting friends with benefits relationship. It can work for a short amount of time, ie between relationships or whenever they’re in town. Even if you go into the relationship with no romantic feelings for the other person as time goes by you either realise that kind of person they are and terminate the relationship, or start to develop feelings for them.
In its defence the first half of the film is very good; great dialogue and supporting cast, Natalie Portman is fantastic and beautiful as ever, and it provided more than a few laughs. When Adam does eventually convince Emma to go on a date with him he brings her handful of carrots instead of flowers and hands her a date itinerary complete with a google map.
The character of Adam’s dad I spent the entire film trying to decide if I liked or not. He started off in an ‘American Pie Dad’ way of trying to be cool, smoking weed, and embarrassing his son by still trying to be young and sexy which instantly annoyed me. However there were parts of his character that worked very well; dating Adam’s ex girlfriend and the wonderful Birthday song scene. Lake Bell and Jake M. Johnson were fantastic supporting cast deserve a lot more credit than they’ll probably get and were as enjoyable to watch as Portman and Kutcher.
Overall No Strings Attached is certainly better than most might expect, although if you take a date to this film on Valentine’s Day be weary of what message you want to send. But at the end of the day if it looks like a rom-com and sounds like a rom-com, it’s a rom-com.