Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by:Elizabeth Meriwether
Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Ludacris
Released: February 10, 2011
Grade: A-

Next Monday is Valentine’s Day.  If you buy into the occasion, it’s a chance to do something special with the person you love.  This may involve flowers, gifts and candlelit dinners.  For some, it may involve a trip to the cinema.  There’s always at least one movie studio who are trying to offer up a sweet romantic comedy for the occasion.  Over the past five years, we’ve had Valentine’s Day, He’s Just Not That Into You, Definitely Maybe, Music & Lyrics and Just Friends.

This year’s suggested fare is No Strings Attached with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.  The title neatly sums up the crux of the story.  Emma and Adam are two people who keep bumping into each other.  She’s a doctor who works ridiculously long hours.  He’s an assistant on a popular television show.  Neither has time for a full blown relationship and so they decide to have one that based purely on sex.

Ok, we all know where this story is going and how it will end.  You can’t expect much more from a rom-com.  However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way… and that’s exactly what I did when I saw this for the first time.  There are a few laugh-out-loud lines (the best involving a “crime scene”) and funny supporting cast including the likes of Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig and Ludacris.

Perhaps the real reason I liked it was because it features two of my favourite actors.  Natalie Portman is wonderful as always.  She portrays Emma as a bouncy, happy-go-lucky character but with serious self-confidence issues bubbling below the surface.  Some might wonder why Portman would take on a role in a predictable rom-com but I think it’s an apt choice after her chilling performance in Black Swan.  It highlights her range as an actress and it’s also nice to see her laughing and smiling.  

I realise most won’t rank Ashton Kutcher as highly on their list of favourite actors but I like him.  I was curious to see how they’d deal with the height difference between himself and Portman.  He’s 6’3” and she’s just 5’3”.  Director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) could have done the “Hollywood thing” and reduced the gap with creative camera angles but instead, he weaves it into the story with humorous effect.

Less than two months ago, we saw the release of Love And The Other Drugs with Jake Gyllenhaal with Anne Hathaway.  Both films are similar in that (1) they’re a little more explicit than you might expect and (2) they both involve a couple getting together only for sex.  So why did I like No Strings Attached and yet dislike Love And Other Drugs?  I don’t know.  I guess love really does move in mysterious ways.