Just nominated for an Oscar as the obsessive ballerina in “Black Swan,” Natalie Portman goes gross in this pre-Valentine’s Day romantic comedy with a role-reversing twist.
When they first meet as gawky teenagers at summer camp, Emma Kurtzman (Portman) comforts Adam Franklin (Ashton Kutcher) when he tells her that his famous sit-com star father (Kevin Kline) is divorcing his mother. They next run into each at a college fraternity party, where Emma asks Adam to accompany her to this ‘thing’ the next day.
Adam agrees and turns up in a bright yellow hoodie, not realizing that the occasion is Emma’s father’s funeral. A year or so later, they run into each other at a farmers’ market in Los Angeles. Emma’s now an ambitious medical resident, while Adam works as a production assistant on a “Glee”-like musical TV series. Skip ahead again to when Adam discovers that his ex girl-friend (Ophelia Lovibond) has moved in with his father. That prompts Adam to call every number in his phone book, including Emma’s, and they embark on a strictly sexual, no-strings-attached relationship. That means no cuddling, shared breakfasts, jealousy about dating others, etc.
Guess how long the friends-with-benefits arrangement lasts? Affable Adam wants a deeper commitment but serious Emma’s adamant that she’s too busy with her 80-hours-a-week at the hospital. He wants to settle down but she doesn’t. That’s the twist.
Written with sharp female candor and clichés by novice screenwriter Elizabeth Meriwether and helmed by veteran director Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters”), it’s yet another example of the incredible versatility of Natalie Portman, beginning with her debut in Luc Besson’s “The Professional” and followed by three “Star Wars” prequels and memorable turns in “Closer” and “V for Vendetta,” among others. Later this year, she’s starring in “Hesher,” “The Other Woman,” “Your Highness” and the Marvel action
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “No Strings Attached” is a sexy, sappy, shallow 6. Concluding with an audacious joke, it should appeal to crass comedy fans waiting for the next Judd Apatow release.