Thoughts on No Strings Attached

Warning: Spoilers for “No Strings Attached”

Last Saturday the kids were out of the house, so my wife and I decided to watch a movie. After browsing Netflix for ten minutes, we settled on “No Strings Attached”, a romantic movie starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. The basic plot of the movie is that the two leads decide to have a “friends with benefits” relationship and not let love get in the way.

The twist in the movie should already be apparent from my brief description. That’s the main flaw in this movie. The writing is good, the acting is excellent in places and the direction is fine, but the whole thing is just a little too predictable.

This kind of thing has happened in other genres before. It’s not just a problem of romance movies. Horror movies in the nineties, for example, were very predictable right up until Scream came out. It’s easy to undervalue Scream now after the sequels have overused its own formulas, but at the time it was a shake up for the genre.

Romance needs to have a similar shake up. Here is my take on the current plot of romance movies:

–          Two people can’t be together for whatever reason;

–          They get together;

–          They fall in love with each other, despite all the odds;

–          One of them does something monumentally stupid;

–          The stupid act is misinterpreted by the other;

–          They break up;

–          One of them makes a mad dash to see the other and makes a speech;

–          They get back together.

The main problem I have with the formula is the doing something monumentally stupid. Even when you relate to the characters and they seem intelligent enough, they still have to do something incredibly stupid. In “No Strings Attached”, Natalie Portman’s character breaks up with Ashton Kutcher’s character just because she doesn’t think she should be in a relationship.

She’s a doctor. She says smart things. Does this character have no self-awareness or introspection? She demonstrates her ability to think critically other places. The only reason she does this stupid thing is to fit the formula.

I’m not sure how the formula should be shaken up, but it desperately needs a change. If you can tell within five minutes of a movie what’s going to happen at the end, isn’t that a sign that something has gone wrong?


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