‘No Strings Attached’ takes up the old question of when does playing around slip into love.
Going in for a double dose of angst this season, Natalie Portman turns from "Black Swan" to play Emma, a young doctor in "No Strings Attached" who scampers away from emotional attachments. Her prime attachee is Ashton Kutcher's Adam, an aspiring TV writer and the son of a famous blowhard sitcom star played by Kevin Kline.
The stereotypical gender role reversal here is the gimmick. Emma is the one who just wants a sexual relationship without any emotional overload while Adam, who plays along with the setup, inevitably falls for her. Why he does so is something of a mystery, since Emma, while undeniably smart and pretty, is also undeniably abrasive. Since Adam doesn't seem like the masochistic type, his puppyish, sweet-souled love for her registers as more of a plot convenience than a plausibility.
No doubt there is a vast young audience out there clamoring to know the answer to the film's conundrum about whether friends can have sex and still be friends. The answer provided here – one of many reasons why this film is not as "daring" as it pretends – is a resounding "no." (This is no junior-division "Last Tango in Paris.") That answer will likely make the film a big date-night smash, although these days who knows what qualifies as a date movie? I thought "Black Swan" would be the worst date movie since "Saw 3D" but I was wrong.