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Friday, January 28, 2011

No Strings Attached (Release Date:1-21-2011)

        In case you haven't heard by now, this is Natalie Portman's moment. The two-time Golden Globe winner and girl-next-door dream boat is likely on the path to win her first Academy Award for Black Swan, and is certainly on the path to bringing a new life into the world with husband-to-be Benjamin Millepied. This all goes without saying that Portman, whose career has always been a bit slowed by her now completed education, has three more movies still slated for release in 2011 (The Other Woman, Your Highness, and Thor), and that's assuming that her pregnancy will halt the filming of yet another (Cloud Atlas). Oh yeah, and her first 2011 offering, No Strings Attached, is sitting pretty at Number One in the Box Office as of this writing. It's good to be Natalie.

        The premise of the film is simple and concise: Portman and co-star Ashton Kutcher (Emma and Adam, respectively) come to the realization that they both want to jump each other's bones, so they try to do so without contracting that deadly virus known as feelings. Emma, the sort of one-who-got-away who never lets anyone catch her, works absurd hours at the local hospital, and claims to harbor far greater needs in the pants than in the heart. Conversely, Adam doesn't ever really seem too attached to the idea of being unattached, and not-so-secretly pines for Emma's affections even as he seemingly reaps their rewards. If you don't know where this is going, where have you been, and how did you figure out how to use the internet?

        No Strings Attached takes a surprising amount of time to reach the storyline that its title promises, the first twenty minutes providing a history of the two that reaches back fifteen years, and manages to add literally nothing in the way of character development or the plot. The characters are inconsistent through-out, declaring a firmly held belief or opinion one moment, before casting it aside in the next as if the two scenes were written by different people. The pop music that lofts around in the movie's background is a bit underwhelming, and at times oddly placed, or noticeably absent. But none of that really matters, does it? The success or failure of a Romantic Comedy hinges on a sacred few details, and as those are the only ones worth discussing in any sort of depth, I might as well get to it.

        Portman and Kutcher have solidly OK chemistry, bolstered by the fact that they happen to be two amazing looking people who look pretty amazing on screen together. Their playful banter is worth a smile here and there: Not the standard barer for their genre, but not like pairing Ralph Fiennes with Jennifer Lopez, either. Adam has some Kelso moments here and there, but is also handed some pretty fantastic romantic gestures that are far more adorable than the movie that contains them. Each star has their standard Rom-Com pack of friends, but in the flick's only real deviation from the norm, it's Emma's friends who carry the comedy torch, Mindy Kaling and Greta Gerwig both making the absolute most of their minimal screen time.

       NSA doesn't seem too interested in the gross-out, jaw-dropping humor that its marketing suggested; It's too concerned with going down easy, which it does in alarmingly familiar fashion. It's noticeably below average entertainment elevated to slightly below average standards by the charming and radiant Portman. There's simply no denying her screen presence, and if this isn't the ideal movie to show what it's like when she has fun with a role, then hopefully Your Highness or Thor is. I can't say I would have been too excited if I had paid to see it, but as turn-your-brain-all-the-way-off mindless entertainment, one could do worse.

Grade: C-

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