Funny forgives a lot.
Messy thrillers, stilted dramas, ponderous epics - throw in the right dash of humour and you have a redeemable movie. More than anything else, this formula works wonders in the rom-com genre : when the rom isn't quite right, you better be nailing the com. And hell, this movie nails it.
The title, besides being accurate, also kind of gives away the entire plot if you've watched more than two movies in this genre. Obviously, there's going to be some kind of pact between the two impossibly good-looking-and-charming-leads (Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher here) where they indulge in non-committal sex, which is going to be lots of fun at first, till someone develops feelings and the equation is hurt. It is then left for the jilter to realize that he/she reciprocates said feelings in the same capacity, and is further ready to act on them. This realization is often preceded by a misunderstanding that the carelessness of the jilter may have cost them their one true love. Kisses and tears and tear-stained-kisses will follow.
Okay, yes, you say, so its formulaic to a fault - and as I've noted before, its going to be difficult for any entry in this genre to transcend the limited trappings that going down this road invoke. No Strings Attached does not transcend the formula on that level. It very, very clearly sticks to the beaten path, resolutely refusing to throw up any kind of narrative unconventionality. The issues that the characters have with being with each are inorganic - the script refuses to really let you understand where they're coming from, and with this kind of two-dimensionality of characterization, the romance doesn't really come alive.
That said, I kind of loved this movie.
Because, seriously, funny forgives a LOT. And like I've mentioned, this movie is often hilarious. A lot of the jokes are steeped in extreme raunch, which is often outrageous and yet never distasteful. The humour varies from bizarre exchanges, to witty quips, through to a series of set pieces that masterfully build up in hilarity. The cast crackles in these situations many of which stayed with me till long after, my possible favourite moment being the sight of a tear streaked Natalie Portman wailing along to Bleeding love while stuffing her face with a box-full of muffins. Its a wonderful payoff to a stray joke set up much earlier in the movie, and it generated enough goodwill to make me give this movie a hearty recommendation.
Also, I can't get the damn song out of my head. Darn that Leona Lewis.