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A Bunch of Horny Doctors, Some Dating, and Maybe Love

Movie Review: No Strings Attached (2011)
Summary: A guy and girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but find that they want something more.
Spoilers: none

No Strings Attached is a lighthearted romance with an appealing cast, culminating in a story that holds its own in terms of the humor and eroticism it offers.

Ashton Kutcher is “Adam,” the son of “Alvin” (Kevin Kline). Adam's childhood crush, “Emma” (Natalie Portman), he keeps running into over the course of 15 years. In that time, she has become his oldest friend. And while time keeps moving him forward, his strange attraction to her hasn’t faded with each unexpected encounter.

When their paths cross for the final time, they will at last move out of “the friend zone” and settle into a mutually agreeable, sex-only relationship on the fly, with rules against things like eating breakfast together, exchanging compliments, cuddling, or staring into each others’ eyes after “the act.” This pleases Emma, but is a steadily building and unexpressed disappointment for Adam, who cheesily tries to escalate things as he makes it more than obvious to everyone around him that he is smitten by her.

The surging humor has its notably high and low moments, most of it aimed to resonate with the guys. Adam’s friends, “Wallace” (Ludacris) and “Eli” (Jake M. Johnson), are trying to convince Adam he is living the single man’s dream. Eli: “Ten years from now, you’re going to be having sex with your wife! And it’s gonna be in the missionary position! And one if you is going to be asleep!”

Assumptions to be made about the film are that Adam gets tired of things, which leads to the couple’s before-it-began breakup, suggesting a happy reuniting when the sadness of love lost is realized. Well, assumptions can be right or wrong. No Strings Attached follows suit more often than choosing not to, but there is more here than pretty kids hooking up from well-to-do families.

Though the issues inside Emma’s head are never really explored, it’s enough for the writers to inform you that “commitment issues” are a thing women face as well as men. The loose believability and raunchy, nonchalant attitudes of Emma’s roommates, all of them doctors or doctors-in-training, bring in a like-ability to the outplaying of events that takes the plot in a direction that avoids most clich├ęs and makes for some ass-baring entertainment on the part of Kutcher himself.

Adam’s would-be competition is “Sam” (Ben Lawson), a fellow doctor who sees Emma on a daily basis and is fighting for her heart. And what is a romance movie without some competition? But the moment we start to expect the development of a love triangle, we get nothing. The character is just dropped out of the writing.

Adam’s father is an ego-driven, casual drug-user with a tendency to take advantage of being used just for sex. Trying to create some kind of weird drama that does nothing for the story, dad and his latest squeeze, “Vanessa” (Ophelia Lovibond), is Adam’s former girlfriend. Yuck!

Adam resents his father, and though he is in a similar sex-only relationship with Emma, what is supposed to be highlighted is that he will have learned the lesson before his old man. It’s the film’s way of saying: “Hey, listen. There are still some good guys out there who really want a nice life with a great girl.”

The film is saying one other thing not to be missed by anyone, and it is something everyone who is mature knows: Sex involves complex emotions. Try and try as you might, you won’t avoid the hurt that will finally catch up to you. The film uses the appeal of near-nudity and heavy thematic sex to get our attention before declaring in not so many words: “Keep doing this and you’ll get hurt.”

No Strings Attached is a tasty mixture of rich sexual content consistent with male-oriented romances, but with a personalized female attention to detail in the exchanges, sold with charisma by a devoted cast of actors who know and feel their parts.

The movie is primarily good as sexual fuel for couples in love – and that despite a terribly unfunny and ridiculous opening with no appeal whatsoever. Things get more erotically intense and emotively engrossing as we approach the finality. Romantics will for sure be taken while the rest of us may not mind, either.

(JH)

Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: R (for sexual content, language, and some drug material)
Director: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Natalie Portman “Emma,” Ashton Kutcher “Adam,” Kevin Kline “Alvin,” Cary Elwes “Dr. Metzner,” Greta Gerwig “Patrice,” Lake Bell “Lucy,” Olivia Thirlby “Katie,” Ludacris “Wallace,” Jake M. Johnson “Eli,” Mindy Kaling “Shira”
Genre: Comedy / Romance
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