So far Ivan Reitman‘s No Strings Attached has a 50% Rottten Tomatoes rating — flunk. This is underlined by a portion of Karina Longworth‘s L.A. Weekly/Village Voice review when she points out the irony of the film being about “introspective outsiders waging the good fight against Hollywood assholery” while leaving “a shtick stain that reeks of crass Hollywood conventionality.”
Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached.
But the L.A.-residing Longworth is more culturally and generationally akin to Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman‘s characters than most other critics, and so her sympathetic remarks are worth considering.
“Very little happens in this film that couldn’t realistically happen in the lives of actual beautiful-but-brainy, non-obnoxiously moneyed and ambitious twentysomethings circa now,” she writes. “At times, No Strings Attached feels almost shockingly attuned to the particular angst of its time and place.
“Portman’s third-act flight from Kutcher’s feelings would play as a predictable beat in a rom-com that only wanted to tear its lovers apart so it could bring them together again; it’s to Reitman and [screenwriter] Elizabeth Meriwether‘s credit that here it feels organic, a testament to the difficulty of accepting love at face value in a culture in which artificiality is the norm, sincere feelings are foreign enough to be frightening, and old-fashioned romance can seem like a suspicious affect.
“The idea of keeping it real in a highly artificial climate is mirrored by Meriwether’s script itself, which takes a moribund stock genre skeleton and animates it with multilayered characters who, for the most part, speak in the casual cadences of real people….[and with the film] confidently making the case that the tsuris of just being 26 and trying to figure out how to love and be loved is conflict enough.”
In short, Longworth is cutting the film a break in part because she’s living a similar kind of 20something/early-30something Los Angeles life in this or that way, and because she relates to the youngish Meriwether and the world she created and conveyed on the page before Reitman came along and, apparently, Reitmanized it.