Even in a trifle, Natalie Portman is the real deal. If ‘No Strings Attached’ were built entirely around her character, we might be celebrating another triumph. Instead, we have to be content with a romantic comedy that is often quite funny, even as we’re constantly reminded that the two lead characters are hopelessly mismatched.
The fundamental incompatibility between Emma (Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) has nothing to do with their height difference — “When I stand next to him, people think he’s kidnapping me,” Emma tells a friend — nor with their differing career aspirations — Emma is beginning her career as a doctor and Adam is working as a production assistant on a TV show while waiting for his career as a writer to start.
Rather, it has more to do with the chasm between Portman and Kutcher as actors. Portman is completely believable as Emma, a relationship-shy woman with an incredibly busy, stressful job, who uses sex to release tension, provide pleasure, and avoid commitment. We know there’s must be a sizable amount of emotional baggage lurking beneath the surface; she’s too busy to dredge it up for the sake of a relationship. Some of that comes from the script, credited to Elizabeth Meriwether, and some comes from Portman’s performance. It’s a happy marriage of material and actor.