Can best friends be sex friends? Can I get a worst tagline ever?
So mainstream release rom-coms hit probably a rock-bottom in 2009, and seem to be in some capacity on the road to recovery. The short term solution being just allowing people to say fuck, and for some reason this does help with one aspect of the rom-com rut. The horrible synthetic greeting card reality where not a even a breath would feel genuine. And somehow, the ability to say fuck does help with that a little bit, as just a semblance of naturalism goes a long way here. And like Going The Distance before it, its still quite a bland story, but it has enough of a life force not to be a complete travesty. Still not great though.
I guess the main pitch for No Strings Attached is that it subverts the usual rom-com tradition of the man being the asshole, the woman being the saint and him gradually being won over by her awesomeness. Here Natalie Portman is the asshole and Ashton Kutcher is the saint, she terrified of commitment and he the full-blooded romantic. Ladies and gentleman pieces of brain are to be found on the floor because that twist on convention has just blown your minds. In truth 500 days of Summer did this to a much higher quality, but I guess an obvious twist is better then no twist at all and Portman certainly has fun playing the closed-off one. She's only intermittently good though, too often giving the impression of trying too hard to be likable. Portman has never really been very good at playing the every woman, although she has her moments here. Kutcher, in seemingly the only role he ever plays these days, does what he always does. He's OK, I don't mind him all that much as a romantic comedy lead, but thats probably all he has the capacity to be. The supporting cast fares better, there's a particularly winning performance by Lake Bell as Kutcher's uber-neurotic work companion, and its cool to see Greta Gerwig out of indie-land. Ludacris is also in this movie. For some reason. That sounds mean, I actually don't mind Ludacris as rapper to actor converts go, and he was in an episode of Robot Chicken so.
No Strings Attached deserves to be called average I guess, which is a marked improvement on what could have been, and what the romantic comedy has lead me to expect of it lately. I just can't wait until the genre recovers enough that you can call a film like this bad, but I suppose its stale water compared to drought. You kind have to just take what you can get.