Romantic relationships are confusing, exciting, overwhelming, exhilarating and oftentimes frustrating. Most of all, however, they’re necessary. Let’s be real: We all know this on some level, either from personal experience or observations of our friends — and that’s not even including the veritable slew of romantic comedy films pervading Hollywood. These relationships are definitely a defining characteristic of us as people.

In No Strings Attached, directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, the murky waters of a “friends with benefits” situation escalates into a “complicated relationship.” The beginning of the film captures the audience’s attention, tracing random meetings of Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) throughout a 15-year period, until they ultimately meet as adults and become involved with each other.

The film exhibits the comedy of the awkwardness in these casual liaisons, with such quips as “We probably shouldn’t snuggle” (Portman) … “You’re right, that just felt wrong” (Kutcher). The movie brings to light the difficulty of sustaining any sexual interaction as casual, satirizing the feelings that develop in a scene where Emma jumps on Adam, exclaiming, “Why couldn’t we just have sex!”

This film is what it is: a romantic comedy. It’s lighthearted, but heart wrenching; emotionally charged, yet comical. Though stereotypical, it shows the powerful nature that romance and sex have on personal nature. Interestingly, Portman’s character is the one to suggest the casual sexual meetings, though predominantly in the interests of keeping romance at bay. Portman’s character maintains symmetry in her hesitancy to “feel” throughout Emma and Adam’s long history. Emma is guarded and distant to protect a vulnerable and fragile interior, while Adam essentially wears his heart on his sleeve. Kutcher’s character is the more romantic of the two parties, pursuing Portman’s and struggling to keep things casual. However, that dramatic tension is what makes the film.

To a certain extent it’s impossible for a romantic comedy to be completely original. The juxtaposition of Portman and Kutcher’s characters’ mentalities, when paired with the 15-year history they share, creates a sort of story that everyone would like to fall into themselves. The movie does its job: Leading up to Valentine’s Day, it creates a story to which anyone can relate. It’s witty in many instances, corny in others, but altogether surprisingly better than expected. The sitcom-like quality brings the audience on as friends of the characters, in a way imparting that message of self-discovery that accompanies romance.

No Strings Attached is ultimately a parody of the attempt to keep sex, or the romance that usually comes with it, simple. Romance is a necessary part of all of us; this film emphasizes that, despite intentions, even casual relationships can get complicated. The film is a solid choice — not earth shattering, but lively nonetheless, and it exceeds expectations. If anyone is in the mood for a laugh and somewhat quirky love story, it’s worth the look.

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