Rating: **** ½
***** Must see opening weekend
**** See in theater
*** Rent it
** Catch it on TV
* Avoid completely
Gender roles are redefined in Paramount Pictures’ new romantic comedy, No Strings Attached.
Adam Kurtzman (played by Ashton Kutcher) and Emma Franklin (Natalie Portman) have a peculiar way of bumping into each other every few years. We first see the innocent relationship between our hero and heroine develop over the course of the opening scenes of the film, as their paths converge at pivotal moments during their adolescence and young adulthood. The on-and-off friends both appear to house stronger feelings than friendship, but other forces prohibit Emma and Adam from taking their relationship to the next level.
During their fourth encounter, Adam, in a drunken stupor over his father’s dismaying behavior, finds his unclothed self on none other than his friend Emma’s couch. After the heavily built-up sexual tension throughout the years of their acquaintance, Adam and Emma inevitably wind up in bed together.
The couple’s long-awaited liaison would make the perfect ending to a happy romance story. Instead, it acts as the catalyst for the creation of the main conflict. Emma states that she made a huge mistake by connecting with Adam in this way, insisting that they must cut off their involvement immediately. Adam is left puzzled over her unexplainable reaction.
Emma’s strange behavior simultaneously elicits feelings of disappointment, pleasure and intrigue. Disappointment stems from the hastiness in Emma saying no to the possibility of a relationship with a “nice guy.” Pleasure is derived from the manner in which Emma defies the typical conventions of feminism by turning down an opportunity for true love. The aspect of intrigue develops from the greatest question of all: why is Emma so set in her way of thinking?
Despite the cold shoulder, Adam attempts to reconnect with Emma. She does not make it easy for him. Adam makes multiples attempts to call and text Emma and becomes disillusioned when she does not match his enthusiasm. The tables have been turned and it is Adam who is left stressing over whether he will ever have a second “date” with Emma. After much devoted follow up, Adam eventually receives a response from Emma and the two embark on an agreed upon “no strings attached” relationship.
Emma’s pessimistic views on the subject of monogamy become highly questionable and hard to relate to at times. It is clear that Adam is making a huge effort to reach out to her and it is difficult to understand her motives. The film explores Emma’s heightened fear of long-term relationships and sets up a pleasing character arc for her.
“No Strings Attached” offers something different and refreshing to its genre. The film challenges the normal stereotypes of male and female in regards to relationship paranoia and questions whether it is possible to sustain a purely physical, emotionless relationship.
Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman’s star performances are supported by several other familiar faces, including Kevin Kline, Cary Elwes and Ludacris. Catch the film in theatres January 21, 2011.
Recommended for those who like:
When Harry Met Sally
A Lot Like Love