No Strings Attached bills itself as a sex comedy as opposed to a rom-com, and with good reason given the nadir that genre finds itself in of late. But for all its blue talk and extolling of the 'friends with benefits' scheme, the film falls back on rom-com conventions sooner rather than later, with love trumping sexual gratification and the man inexplicably getting his way.
That's despite the typical male role being assigned to Natalie Portman's Emma, a doctor who works 80 hours a week and has no time for the hassles that inherently come with relationships. Adam (Ashton Kutcher), an intermittent acquaintance of Emma's over the years following their first meeting at summer camp (where he politely asked if he could 'finger' her), is only to happy to fulfill the role of on-call booty call (the film's original title was F*ckbuddies).
That is until it becomes clear that Adam's feelings for Emma reside mostly in his chest cavity and not his nether regions. He wants more than sex; he wants a relationship. Yes, Adam has been assigned the typical female role in No Stings Attached, an inversion which allows women's (supposed) desire for commitment to be championed whilst simultaneously allowing the man to be in the right. Take that, feminism!
Okay, so No Strings Attached is not without its laughs. Veteran director Ivan Reitman (working from a screenplay by Elizabeth Meriwether) knows a thing or two about comedy, but even supporting roles by Kevin Kline (as Adam's cradle-robbing father) and an underused Greta Gerwig (a surprise find in last year's Greenberg) can only do so much. Portman and Kutcher make for an attractive though remarkably bland couple.
Still, Portman (who also executive produced the film) doesn't disgrace herself and is in no danger of derailing her Oscar chances with this trifle. No Strings is no Norbit, the film which supposedly brought Eddie Murphy's bid for an Oscar for Dreamgirls undone.
No doubt No Strings Attached will be the Valentine's Day date movie of choice for 2011, just as Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day was last year and He's Just Not That Into You the year before. Personally, I prefer chocolates.