Rom-Coms; you either love ’em or hate ’em. It is brainless entertainment after all, but does it always have to be the case? No Stings Attached isn’t a total nose dive and there is a small amount of humor and an almost heartfelt message if you sift through enough of it. However it’s like trying to get full eating only meager little spoonfuls – it ends up being more exhausting than it is satisfying. But can’t we expect more? Don’t we deserve more? And from Ivan Reitman no less! I went in with an open mind but deep down I could just tell knew this was going to be pretty awful.
Despite grinning and bearing it, No Strings Attached was just so awkward for more than half the movie. Now I’m not sure if it was just the audience in my theater but a lot (and I mean a lot) of the jokes got nothing but silence. Strings just didn’t know what it wanted to be…was it a run-of-the-mill comedy going for some edgy material? Or an American Pie grade shock-comedy that pulled its punches? I still can’t tell.
The high point of this movie, by a long shot, is Natalie Portman and I kind of thought she was above this material (although she was in the Star Wars prequels and the upcoming Your Highness so she’s not above having a laugh at herself). Still, she didn’t bring even half of her talent to this movie. Then again the role of Emma didn’t really call for it.
Now I’m not saying that Natalie gives a poor performance, not at all. But when you know someone is capable of better, as an audience member you feel insulted. Further she did the best with what she had and maybe if Black Swan came out after this I would give her some slack but this is almost intolerable…for pretty much everyone associated. Portman and Kutcher (not that he does a lot for a movie mind you) are the only ones steering the boat because the out of place and random supporting cast really didn’t help much either. It’s easy to make Kutcher look like a knight in shining armor next to his socially inept roommate. And Ludacris? Yup here’s here too, much like his out of place role in RocknRolla. It really prompts me to ask, again, who would think of putting Ludacris in a movie?
Aside from the 2 dimensional characters, the humor was hit and miss and that’s putting it generously. Part of me thinks that as a 30 year old I might just be getting to that level where raunchy for the sake of raunchy elements in movies are both offensive and off-putting. But the more I think of it, if those elements were handled and executed well I’d be all for it. After all it takes a lot for a film or material to really rub me the wrong way (and I grew up with George Carlin). That said it’s when those same incendiary elements are done in such an immature and amateur way that it can be caustic and insipid.
Many scenes with Ashton Kutcher and his friends were all poorly written, acted and totally forced (starting with but not limited to their convenient and brief encounter in Chicago at the beginning of the film). It sure looked like the supporting cast was just waiting for this film to wrap so they could be done with this movie. Don’t even get me started on poor Kevin Kline his aging hipster father and Kutcher’s ex-girlfriend plot line (fyi: it didn’t work). There’s also a nearly mute Cary Elwes which just to add more wasted talent to this heap! My biggest head scratching element in this movie is it’s director. I really thought Ivan Reitman was just a cute cameo early on in the film. Had I known he actually directed this I would have actually had some expectations for this and moreover have been more upset that this movie was just a waste of my time.
Essentially a feature length sit-com episode, Stings just failed to elevate itself past what Rom-Coms have become known for. Sure these types of films serve their purpose and there is a definite market for it all. “Two mismatched leads” is a formula that, while fractured, will never break and we’ll always have these types of films. At times these goofy films can be done right (when the romance isn’t shoved down your throat). It’s just sad that we have to wait for such lengths of time to find a gem along the lines of the quality in Love Actually. Maybe I have higher standards, but is it too much to want something better?