Natalie Portman has to be enjoying her time on top of Hollywood.
Her small, independent film, “Black Swan,” not only provided Portman with a role that won her a Golden Globe and will likely win her an Oscar, but she met her fiancée, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, during filming. To top it all off, the two are expecting a child.
Needless to say, all this is making her one of Hollywood’s most fascinating young stars and is the driving force behind the success of her latest film, “No Strings Attached,” a comedy in which she costars with Ashton Kutcher. Portman’s popularity, combined with the easy likeability of Ashton Kutcher and an interesting plot premise, led the film to open on top of the box office this weekend with a respectable $20 million.
In the film, Portman plays Emma, an ER doctor looking for sex and a good time, not a relationship. Kutcher plays Adam, an acquaintance of Emma’s from childhood. Reeling from romantic troubles, Adam does not mind hooking up with Emma. At first, the friends with benefits think they are immune to love, but eventually the two end up falling for each other.
There’s no confusing Portman with Emma, as the character is completely unlikeable, which all things considered means Portman is again doing a commendable acting job, as this is not the personality she presents in reality. Emma’s one-track personality is matched for laughs with Adam’s more romantic tendencies. Kutcher is typically funny and charming as usual, and he becomes the relatable character for the audience.
The chemistry between the two is evident, and the two actors’ comic timing bring Elizabeth Meriwether’s script to laughter-inducing life. Although there are scenes that should have been left on the editing room floor, there are also moments that are laugh-out-loud funny. For example, Emma and her roommates wallow around their apartment, all on the same menstrual cycle, until Adam waltzes in, armed with cupcakes and a mix CD with songs such as Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” and Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got The World On A String.” Slightly chauvinistic and condescending? Yes. Did it make the males in the audience cringe a bit? Yes. But the film is so delightfully fresh and unconcerned about what is respectful that it becomes hysterical.
The entire film is raunchy, blunt, touching and, at times, hilarious. Kevin Kline makes a surprising and hilarious appearance as Adam’s oblivious, childish and often-wasted father. Lake Bell charms as Adam’s spastic co-worker and romantic interest.
Director Ivan Reitman (“Up In The Air” and “Ghostbusters”) keeps the laughs coming and the audience always interested. He paces the film well, so that the audience is always interested and never bored in Emma and Adam’s relations.
At the heart of the film, of course, is the tireless romantic-comedy theme of falling for a friend. It would seem like any other romance, except for its complete irreverence and humorous attitude toward relationships. Audiences will have to decide if this film is simply riding off Portman’s success, or one to remember.
Erin Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.