No Strings Attached: Another Sex Friends Rom-Com

Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher in No Strings Attached. Courtesy of Paramount.

No Strings Attached, directed by Ivan Reitman, was the first of two sex friends romantic comedies to be released in 2011.

With everything going on in early 2021, you couldn’t blame me for missing the tenth anniversary. Same goes for Friends with Benefits. The other film opened six months later but it’s the better of the two films. No Strings Attached turned out to be the penultimate film directed by Ivan Reitman. It’s in the lower tier of his filmography and honestly, it just doesn’t compare with the Mila Kunis/Justin Timberlake movie.

Unlike the other film, both Emma Kurtzman (Natalie Portman) and Adam Franklin (Ashton Kutcher) have a previous history. The two meet in summer camp and then meet again years later in Los Angeles. She’s a doctor doing her residency while he’s working on a television series. When Adam’s father, Alvin (Kevin Kline), starts a relationship with Adam’s ex-girlfriend (Ophelia Lovibond), he does the one thing he can: call every female contact ever. Emma’s friends (Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling) tease Adam after he wakes up on their couch the next morning. Much like other romantic comedies, the film plays along the same beats. They get together, they break up, and reunite late in the film. Even though they were never together to begin with!

The film contains a solid comedy cast and they do their best to elevate the material. When you have stars like Portman, Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling, and Jake Johnson, the film should–in theory–work. And yet, it is just barely watchable at almost two hours long. Funny enough, Friends with Benefits is just about the same length. The film is watchable but Natalie and Ashton just don’t have the same chemistry. It is something about the casting that just makes it tougher to buy into their relationship. Even though the whole idea of the film is that they’re just sex friends, they start developing feelings for one another. When you look at the other film, Mila and Justin have better chemistry together.

Ivan Reitman is one of the best comedy filmmakers of his generation–especially his 1980s output–but No Strings Attached is not one of his better films. Again, it comes down to the casting. The film makes minimal use of both Greta Gerwig and Mindy Kaling! When a film casts the two actors, it comes with better expectations. The same goes for Jake Johnson. Audiences deserve a better film and did not get it.

DIRECTOR: Ivan Reitman
SCREENWRITER: Elizabeth Meriwether
CAST: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Jake Johnson, Olivia Thirlby, Ophelia Lovibond, and Kevin Kline

Paramount released No Strings Attached in theaters on January 21, 2011. Grade: 2.5/5

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.