What is a smart Harvard graduate like Natalie Portman meant to do between Oscar dead-certs like ‘Black Swan’? With this wisecracking romcom she seems to be saying she wants nothing to do with the usual does-my-butt-look-big-in-this? chick flicks. But while ‘No Strings Attached’ makes a good stab at a mainstream comedy of sexual mores, it’s not really as radical as it wants to be and never leaves us in any doubt whether its glossy, gorgeous leads will get it on or not.
Written by 29-year-old playwright Elizabeth Meriwether, the script is frank and sharply observed in places – but with an annoying habit of dropping in vulgar sex-slang for shock-factor (‘tunnel buddies’ for men who’ve slept with the same woman, anyone?). The story is an update of ‘When Harry Met Sally’: can men and women be friends without having sex? Twenty-two years later, the question is now: can they be friends and have sex – without getting into a relationship?
Portman produces and stars as a doctor who falls into bed with Ashton Kutcher. Neither wants a steady (his last one ran off with his stoner TV star dad, Kevin Kline), so they establish rules: no breakfast, pet names or romance. Portman can look smug in light-touch comedy, but her chemistry with Kutcher is believable (though to be fair, Kutcher is the golden retriever of male leads: blandly irresistable). Meriwether, who is in a writing posse with Diablo Cody (‘Juno’) dubbed the Fempire, has the most fun with cracking supporting roles from Kline and mumblecore’s Greta Gerwig as Portman’s flatmate.