The “friends with benefits” story isn’t a new one, that’s for sure. But then again, in the new romantic comedy release, “No Strings Attached,” Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) never really seemed like friends to begin with.
Maybe that mixes it up a bit, making it a movie about just “with benefits,” no friends.
Emma and Adam met at Camp Weehawken at age 14. Adam tried to finger Emma to no avail, and the two didn’t see each other again until two isolated incidents many years later. By the second of the chance meetings, however, they begin their fuck buddies routine, which is the premise for the rest of the movie.
Therefore, I really can’t fathom when they had time to legitimately become friends before getting down to the benefits, which makes the movie’s tagline, “Friendship has its benefits,” a little off.
All that aside, it was a very cute little romantic comedy that follows the formula for a successful “romcom” to a T. This movie doesn’t try to hide what it truly is and come across as the next “Annie Hall” or anything like that, so if we stick to evaluating it solely in the context of its genre, it did quite well.
The archetype of a successful “romcom” is as follows: there are two people who fight their urges to be together, allowing for a pretty standard storyline that most people can relate to on some level. As part of their attempt to get over each other, the two people start trying to ignite other love interests, but they soon find that nothing compares.
Additionally, the main characters are surrounded by a slew of friends and family who are either in wonderful, perfect, committed relationships, or whose love lives are completely dry — both extremes are necessary to give context to the main characters’ situation. In the end, however, they both come to their senses and realize that, despite their personality differences, they’re really meant to be together. The end.
Chick flicks are good for two things, and two things only: giving girls cinematic hope for their own love lives, which are probably crumbling before their eyes, and making guys’ lives harder by raising the bar for a job most of them already have no idea how to do in the first place. So, sorry guys, you have another bar-raiser on your hands.
With the exception of Kutcher and Portman, the entire cast is comprised of little-known actors and actresses, and Portman is unsurprisingly the one who carries them all.
I personally hated “Black Swan” with a passion, but Portman’s incredible acting in that movie might beg the question: what is a 2011 Golden Globes award-winner doing in a movie like this? Well, it seems like every actress of notability must, at least once, partake in a romantic comedy of little substance just for fun — look at Diane Keaton, Drew Barrymore Jennifer Garner, etc.
Whatever Portman’s reason for filming this movie, she still brought a level of depth and complication to her character that is rarely present in seemingly frivolous romantic comedies, and that Kutcher certainly did not provide his mundane character.
Throughout the movie, he relied solely on the fact that he’s an attractive, tolerable actor, whose forté is being the proverbial cinema stud.
Additionally, it’s pretty remarkable that Portman had two movies released in a matter of only two months. The woman must never stop working.
Overall, this movie was also enjoyable because it actually owned up to the comedic half of the genre “romantic comedy.”
My friends and I actually found ourselves laughing out loud at numerous moments in the movie, such as when Adam shows up to his and Emma’s first real date with a bouquet of carrots because he knows she hates flowers.
I’ll say “spoiler alert” to protect myself, but you can’t possibly tell me you didn’t see this ending coming the second you saw the movie’s promotional poster — you don’t even have to see the trailer!
As the most important aspect of the chick flick archetype, Emma and Adam live happily ever after. This movie is an overachiever, though, and not only is Emma and Adam’s story wrapped up, everyone else’s is, with a few twists here and there (the spoilers stop here, though).
I’d say the most disappointing moment the movie had to offer was when Kutcher completely butchered what I assume was his most important line in the movie, though I’ll never know because I couldn’t understand it.
During the quintessential romance scene between the two actors at the end, I think Kutcher’s voice was supposed to be deep and sexy, and that’s probably what he was going for, but it just came out as a low-pitched mumble, prompting murmurs of, “what did he just say?” to pervade the theatre.
Though this movie doesn’t bring anything spectacular to the screen and it definitely won’t be a classic for years to come, it did its job of offering another heartwarming and amusing love story to the world, and was even this weekend’s biggest box office money-maker, grossing $19.7 million.
Sklar is a member of the class of 2014.