Film review: Natalie Portman in fun confection

2011-04-04 00:00

SURELY I wasn't the only one surprised to see Natalie Portman alongside Ashton Kutcher? Surely, following up her Oscar-winning, research/preparation-intensive role for Black Swan, with a romcom alongside Mr Demi Moore is, er … like, a downgrade on the PR ratings?

Apparently not. I'll more than likely regret saying this, but No Strings Attached is disarmingly fun.

The romcom is written by 20-something Elizabeth Meriwether and directed by 64-year-old Ivan Reitman. Adam (Kutcher) is an assistant on a High School Musical-type TV show; and Emma (Portman) is a young med student who refuses a serious relationship. Instead, she offers a deal to Adam: that they "use each other for sex, at all hours of the day or night, and nothing else".

Of course Adam is game at the start — name one Hollywood lead actor who wouldn't be at such a proposal? But 30 minutes into the movie, it's clear Adam is after more than just a casual rendezvous at random hours. Soon he's pulling some serious charms: making Emma a special CD mix of songs for when she has her period and being a general gentleman most of the time.

Kutcher understands intuitively that relaxation is the key in this rom-com, where he's basically pretending to be himself. You would think he's the Oscar winner here. This is where everything that's good about this movie hinges: the easy warmth between Kutcher and Portman.

The plot is superfluous, and the story is an easy ride, steered by director Reitman's sure hand, and we know what we're in for.

The support cast is fantastic: Kevin Kline as Adam's doofus film-star dad, Greta Gerwig and Olivia Thirlby as Emma's go-to confidantes and Lake Bell as the colleague-with-crush-on-Adam.

As predictable rom-coms go, this is one that stands out and deserves some credibility. ***

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