I am sure at this juncture we’ve all seen the previews for the new Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher vehicle of casual sex and young people’s lives as imagined by Ivan Reitman (?) and passed some judgments: I mean, this cannot possibly be any good, right? Nothing about this seems to work, right? Well, wrong. Obviously, we’re not talking about anyone winning any awards for anything here but “No Strings Attached” is a very funny, start-to-finish (or: ALMOST start to finish, since it does kick off on the unfortunate “flashback on how they met” foot ) entertaining movie with a great cast and lots of knowing winks sprinkled throughout. There, I said it.
I should admit straight up that I am kind of a pretty major Ashton Kutcher fan. It is one of those things you sort of try to resist but, you know, you just can’t. The guys is good great looking, funny and always sort of seems to be in on the joke, which is a rare quality in Hollywood these days. From “That 70s show” to “What Happens in Vegas”, if he plays funny, he does great. Having said that, in the movies in which he plays funny, and those movies work, he usually has a good, capable, well timed comedic cast to play off of and lets face it, Natalie Portman just is not a funny person. Or, and this matters when thinking of this movie, she’s also not a sexy person. Smart-sure. Pretty-yes. Absolutely teeny-yes. Sexy? Not really. Funny? Has she even tried to be funny before?
To the film’s credit they don’t try too make her funny, and I applaud them for that. She gets cast as a smart (I mean, she’s a doctor people!), classy, neurotic woman (there is only one genuinely funny/sad/slapsticky moment she has, and you’ll know when it happens) surrounded by very funny people whom she is generous enough to let have lots of fun with what they’re given.
Which brings us to the supporting cast who really make this movie. Lets see who we have here:
- Greta Gerwig (of “Greenberg” and “Hannah takes the stairs”) as Portman’s roommate/fellow hospital resident: all messy hair and bambi eyed, but always, always alert.
- Mindy FREAKIN’ Kaling (of “Office”) as the other roommate/fellow hospital resident: all deadpan smarts and shamelessness (when she says “God, I’m single as fuck”, you can definitely imagine what kind of single “single as fuck” is)
- Lake Bell (ALWAYS HILARIOUS and last seen chewing the scenery in “What Happens in Vegas”) as Kutcher’s super hot, super smart, super insane, but really good hearted co-worker.
- Kevin Kline (reuniting with his “Dave” director) as Kutcher’s Dad, a horn dog who used to be a sitcom star and now just LOVES drugs, combination martial arts AND (much) younger women
- Olivia Thrilby (of “Juno”, “Bored to Death” and whatever that sort of awesome pot movie with Ben Kingsley was last year) as Portman’s sister-very in love, very happy, very non-conflicted
- LUDACRIS (Hell yeah) as one of Kutcher’s buds
and a bunch of other pretty awesome people. Hell, I’d even watch a sequel to this which is all about the supporting cast here, that’s how good they are.
The dialogue is snippy, the seeming physical awkwardness of the Ashton/Natalie pairing is addressed early on (“HE IS SO TALL. I mean, when he stands next to me he looks like he is kidnapping me”) the situations are both completely romantic comedy absurd and somehow relateable and there is enough memorable quotes (sample: fellow doctor to Kutcher in a parking lot “I know you’re sleeping with Emma-but remember, I’ll be there EVERY DAY…. using big words…. saving lives….waiting….) to rehash with your friends on your metro ride home and while, yes (and saying this won’t really spoil anything since it IS a big Hollywood romcom we’re talking about here) everything does end up wrapped up pretty nicely, you don’t mind. This movie is populated with enough likable people and conversations that you’re actually happy :
a. you spent almost 2 hours in their company and
b. that things work out.
And sometimes, there’s really not much else you can look or ask for. In other words:
on not fucking this up.