Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Apr 18th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Post-Modern Romance

film_stringsAppealing cast vs. silly premise in 'No Strings Attached'

Like many romantic comedies, No Strings Attached begins with an absurd premise. It's about a couple who have fun together, the sex is fabulous, and they're simpatico in every way, but they can't be together because of one of those ridiculous, self-imposed conditions you find only in the movies that they spend the entire movie trying (and ultimately failing) to stick to.

And while the audience is still trying to suspend its disbelief, the first half hour of the movie goes by in a series of drunken encounters, idiotic guy talk, and a barrage of penis jokes. Not jokes involving actual penises, but jokes involving the word "penis," which is evidently supposed to be hilarious in its own right because, once upon a time in the Stone Age, it was one of those words you weren't allowed to say in the movies. (It's like the first time Mel Brooks discovered he could get away with saying "shit" onscreen, and then he couldn't shut up about it; every new film was peppered with gags where that was the entire punchline.)

Anyway, with these two strikes against it right up front, it's amazing that No Strings Attached recovers at all. That it's actually become sort of charming and engaging by film's end is due almost entirely to the appeal of stars Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. Fluttering back from the psychosis of Black Swan, Portman reminds us that she's an agile comedienne with a light touch. But it's Kutcher who carries the show as a genuinely nice guy coping with a weird situation as best he can, with humor and thoughtfulness. All through the movie, people keep saying his character has "a good heart," and Kutcher makes us believe it.

Directed by comedy veteran Ivan Reitman (Animal House; Ghostbusters), the film is written by Elizabeth Meriwether, whose script gets off to an iffy start, but gradually finds its groove. After a chance meeting at summer camp the year his parents divorced, and an encounter at a college frat party years later on the eve of her father's funeral, Adam (Kutcher) and Emma (Portman) meet up again in Los Angeles. He's a production assistant on a popular Glee-type TV series; she's an intern at the Westwood Teaching Hospital.

Their chemistry is perfect, but Emma doesn't want a relationship; she works 80 hours a week, she says, and needs somebody who will be available for sex at any hour with no messy romantic entanglements. Egged on by his buddies that he's living every man's wildest fantasy, Adam agrees, already smitten with her, but gallantly trying to play by her rules. Of course, they fall in love instantly, but if they didn't keep trying to abide by Emma's doomed and silly game plan, there would be no plot.

It's not just that Emma is commitment shy; she's pathological. Declaring she's "not an affectionate person," she's awkward at social hugging, and as a bed partner, she refuses to spoon or snuggle. She's so creeped out when Adam attempts to take her on a normal date, they almost come to blows. ("You fight like a hamster," he protests.) No comprehensible explanation is ever offered for her phobia (it may have something to do with losing her father, although since Adam is the child of divorce, you'd think he'd be more likely to distrust romance), so when her widowed mother offers an ad hoc absolution in the late innings, it doesn't really resonate.

But if the central premise never quite flies, the movie still has its offbeat charms. Kevin Kline is fun as Adam's dad, a much-divorced, aging roué of a former TV star trying to regain his lost youth—currently with Adam's dingy, sexpot ex-girlfriend (Ophelia Lovibond). Lake Bell brings comic verve and vulnerability to the role of a Type-A TV producer with a crush on Adam. And there's one very funny sequence when Emma and her roommates (two female and one sympathetic gay male) are all enduringfilm_nostring a mass menstrual meltdown at the same time when Adam brings them a special "period mix" CD (sample title: "I've Got the World on a String"), that goes a long way toward redeeming the movie all by itself.

NO STRINGS ATTACHED

★★1/2 (out of four)

With Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Kline. Written by Elizabeth Meriwether. Directed by Ivan Reitman. A Paramount release. Watch film trailer >>>Rated R. 110 minutes.

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.