Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

“No Strings Attached” is just another casual affair

**/**** (2 stars out of 4)

The title should have tipped me off. Had I actually known that “No Strings Attached” was also reflective of the movie’s connection with its audience, trust me, I would not have bothered.

Adam (Ashton Kutcher) and Emma (Natalie Portman) are the characters who decide to tackle the question “Can two people have sex without all that love stuff getting in the way?” The interesting thing here is that it is Portman’s character who works 80-hour weeks and whose lack of commitment is the major impediment.

Despite the unconventional setup, there is little doubt in our minds where our characters are headed. It is how we get there, though, that is the film’s main problem.

The characters know what they are getting into. The audience knows what we are getting into. So when the film encounters its various hiccups and diversions, the expectation is that they are at the very least grounded in the characters that are decently developed.

No such luck here.

One of the more frustrating characteristics of the film lies within Portman’s character. Of course I understand that there have to be character-driven hurdles in this kind of movie. But the fear of commitment that troubles Portman’s character seems contrived. This movie rarely allows the anxiety to come from our characters.

To be fair, the characters are established under very awkward circumstances. This awkwardness continues until it brings them to their first hook-up. There is something to this awkwardness that brings a sliver of reality to their circumstances.

But along with Emma’s fear of commitment, there are plenty of other contrivances that are ultimately the film’s downfall.

Adam is an assistant on a series not all that unlike “Glee,” having grown up around television as the son of a famous actor (Kevin Kline). In addition to the father’s “Great Scott” thing running its course after the first two times, the scene at the hospital feels cheap mainly because the contrast between Adam and the one-dimensional girlfriend character is only reason the film can claim any weight. Unfortunately, Kevin Kline, given his talent, does not have much to work with in this film, and as a result many of his scenes fall flat.

There are some bright spots, though. Scenes with Emma’s roommates, played by Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling and Guy Branum, are among the funniest in the movie. Another well-cast performance is that of Lake Bell, one of Adam’s producers. (Although another charge of contrivance could be applied here, as we are asked to assume that she has just enough social incompetency to prevent her from acting on whatever feelings she has for Adam.)

Toward the end of the film, we get this line: “I don’t know why I wasted so much time pretending I didn’t care.” I almost laughed a little too loud in the theatre, as I spent the entire movie wondering the same thing. With a movie like this, I should have expected nothing less.

Running Time: 109 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

CW Critic’s Rating: 2 stars (**)

Bottom Line:  Much like its premise, “No Strings Attached” tries hard to establish a relationship with its audience without getting too involved into the emotions. As a result, it feels too contrived.

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