By Lane Roberts
Just before winning the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in the ballet thriller Black Swan, Natalie Portman appeared in No Strings Attached, a comedy about two friends who try to try to keep their relationship only physical.
Emma (Portman, also co-producer), a Los Angeles doctor, and Adam (Ashton Kutcher), a television writer, are lifelong friends who jeopardize their relationship one morning by having sex.
To salvage the friendship, they make a pact to keep their relationship strictly “no strings attached.” This means no jealousy, no expectations, no fighting and absolutely no cuddling. They can do whatever they want, whenever they want, with whomever they want. This presents the quaint dilemma—is it possible to have casual sex without falling in love?
The answer is predictable for anyone who has ever seen a romantic comedy. And therein lays the problem with No Strings Attached. The movie doesn’t really offer anything that hasn’t already been beaten to death in a chick flick. The only difference in this film is the reversal of the stereotypical gender roles. Emma plays the part of the unattached, emotionally distant partner, while Adam is the hopeless romantic.
Despite the clichés, Portman’s talent and Kutcher’s good looks save the film from disaster. Kutcher, amiable though mediocre as always, pulls off the role as sympathetic Adam, while Portman, in a genre completely new to her, successfully steps away from the tense, type-A characters she normally plays and, to no one’s surprise, steals the show.
It will be interesting to see if Portman, who has Thor and Your Highness coming out (two movies that don’t look worth the respective $11 prices of admission), confounds the “Oscar curse” of fading from the spotlight so fresh from her win. She can afford one No Strings Attached, but if she continues to star in more films like this, Black Swan will seem like a fond but distant memory.