The ties that bind

Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher avoid commitment in “No Strings Attached.”

Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) share an unromantic meal.

Photo Courtesy Paramount Pictures

Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) share an unromantic meal.

by Tony Libera

âÄúNo Strings AttachedâÄù

Directed by: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline

Rated: R

Showing at: Area theaters


The romantic comedy is not a genre defined by innovation or high artistic values. Their characters are oftentimes one-dimensional, their plots by-the-books, climaxing with a cathartic, entirely expected tug on the heartstrings that ensures post-movie coitus for all the happy couples in attendance.

Despite these structural limitations, âÄúNo Strings Attached,âÄù with its quirky screenwriter, versatile leading lady âÄî an early favorite for Best Actress at the Oscars âÄî and renowned comedy director, had the potential for both novelty and superiority. For the most part, the movie adheres to stock rom-com tropes, but thereâÄôs merit in its honesty and its tilt in regards to traditional gender roles.

First-time screenwriter Liz Meriwether, whose past work includes a robot version of Henrik IbsenâÄôs âÄúHedda Gabler,âÄù inflects rom-com formula, offering a female lead strictly concerned with sex, while her male counterpart pines for something more. Meriwether also gives the majority of the more laugh-out-loud jokes to female characters. Though for Meriwether, her scriptâÄôs worth lies in its frank depiction of sexuality.

âÄúI think itâÄôs sort of the way that relationships come together these days, and I think in a lot of comedies, it ends with a kiss, you know, and I feel like in modern day relationships, maybe itâÄôs just my own experience âĦ it starts with a kiss and then, you know, it all sort of falls apart,âÄù Meriwether said at a Los Angeles press conference.

âÄúThereâÄôs no definition, thereâÄôs no labels, and I think thatâÄôs really whatâÄôs going on right now,âÄù she added. âÄúI think a lot of these, like, romantic comedies need to catch up with, like, whatâÄôs actually kind of happening.âÄù

âÄúNo Strings AttachedâÄù was also a new experience for Natalie Portman, who made the odd transition from her fractured role in âÄúBlack SwanâÄù to the lighthearted flow of romantic comedy. This year, Portman will also star in the stoner-fantasy âÄúYour HighnessâÄù and the Marvel Comics adaptation of âÄúThor.âÄù

âÄúIt was a great opportunity to get to do a lot of different things in a year,âÄù Portman said. âÄúYou bring, you know, the research and the seriousness and the discipline of doing a drama into, you know, something like âÄòThorâÄô and you bring the humor and the improvisational attitude from something like âÄòYour HighnessâÄô into âÄòBlack Swan.âÄôâÄù

For Ivan Reitman, director of comedy classics âÄúMeatballs,âÄù âÄúStripesâÄù and âÄúGhostbusters,âÄù âÄúNo Strings AttachedâÄù was a return to everyday humor âÄî a draw despite the film’s thematic separation from previous work.

âÄúI think I got lost in making science fiction movies for while,âÄù Reitman said. âÄúAnd I had suddenly this extraordinary screenplay âĦ ItâÄôs raunchy and itâÄôs funny and itâÄôs broad at times, but itâÄôs really about real people talking to each other about real things.âÄù

Reitman went on to discuss the place of âÄúNo Strings AttachedâÄù as a reflection of the contemporary zeitgeist, not simply Hollywood fluff.

âÄúWhether itâÄôs texting or e-mailing or Facebooking, thereâÄôs a kind of distance between the participants [in dating today],âÄù Reitman said. âÄúI think it sort of shifted the energy of that first romantic meeting where itâÄôs quicker, perhaps more desperate, more energetic in a whole different way.

âÄúItâÄôs resulted in a situation where people seem to be sometimes more comfortable having a sexual relationship than an emotional one.âÄù