New in film: No Strings Attached

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Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Cary Elwes, and Kevin Kline. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Written by Elizabeth Meriwether. 103 minutes. Rated R.

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Fully devoid of the fantasy contrivance that often sets an Ivan Reitman film (Ghostbusters, Dave) in motion, NoStrings Attached is extremely narrow in focus: It's "just" about two people in lust struggling to put away their respective baggage in order to have a real relationship with each other. Adam (Ashton Kutcher) texts every girl in his phone and wakes up the next morning at the apartment of medical resident Emma (Natalie Portman). The pair begin to rendezvous during her off hours, and the more she insists she doesn't believe in romance and warns him against falling in love, the harder he pushes to change her mind. Adam is such perfect boyfriend material that the film repeatedly makes a joke out of it; Emma is so unfamiliar with anything like traditional romance that when it comes along, she panics. One major plot device aside, Elizabeth Meriwether's script takes a moribund stock-genre skeleton and animates it with multilayered characters who speak in the casual cadences of real people. Emma's third-act flight from Adam'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 Meriwether and Reitman's credit that here it feels organic, a testament to the difficulty of accepting love at face value in a culture in which sincere feelings are foreign enough to be frightening and old-fashioned romance can seem like a suspicious affect.

 
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