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No Strings Attached (6/10)

by Tony Medley

Run time 108 minutes

Not for children.

I like Ashton Kutcher. Generally his films havenít been well received by any critic but me, so I usually include a preamble with this declaration. And, generally, Iíve liked his films mainly because of his performances. This one isnít as enjoyable as the ones in the past; itís OK, but the lower quality is not Kutcherís fault.

 

Natalie Portman is a relationship-challenged doctor who, in response to Ashtonís interest in her, suggests they have an emotion-free, sex-only relationship. Although the story is predictable, if not trite, there are a few lines funny enough to elicit audible laughs.

Portman, who is basking in the glow of fawning reviews for her performance in Black Swan, has an unfortunate smile that makes it looks as if sheís suffering an attack of diarrhea every time she flashes it. But, while not as goofy as in Black Swan, sheís still a head case here, giving another fine performance.

 

Among the good things about this romcom are the wonderful locations set in and around Los Angeles, including Marina del Rey, romantically captured by D.P. Rogier Stoffers, whose credits include fine work on Disturbia (2007).

 

Directed by Ivan Reitman from a script by Elizabeth Meriwether, the movie has a very low moral tone and includes lots of profane language and F bombs, but no nudity. However, it probably represents a pretty clear picture of the sorry moral state of young adults today. I know for a fact that even 18-year-old middle class sorority girls at one major Los Angeles University, who should have been raised with better morals, dress up like hookers and go out, starting at 10 p.m., to find a stranger (generally a fellow student) with whom to have sex. I saw this film at a non-media screening and there was lots of laughter from the young females in the audience at the free sex and profane lines in the film. This is clearly a film aimed at a young adult audience for whom irresponsible sexual promiscuity is an every day occurrence. They are probably encouraged to this life style by movies like this, so itís a vicious circle.

 

Despite the caliber of the material with which he is given to work, Kutcher gives a fine performance, which raises the quality of the final result. There are also some supporting roles that deserve mention. Kevin Kline gives a nice performance as Kutcherís Hefneresque father, chasing after young women as if he were Lakersí septuagenarian owner Jerry Buss. Gary David Goldberg, better known as the executive producer of wildly successful sitcoms Family Ties and Spin City, makes an appearance as one of Portmanís relatives. Finally, Lake Bell gives a performance as a girl clumsily infatuated with Kutcher that makes one yearn for more. Frankly, I was rooting for her to win his heart.

 

If you can put up with its hedonistic morality, it is moderately entertaining.

January 20, 2011

 

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