First of all, who the fuck does Ivan Reitman think he is stealing the title of an N*SYNC album? With that issue addressed, let's delve into some of the more subtle annoyances of No Strings Attached, which, as I'm sure you know, stars Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. To start with, what is it with people at movie trailer production companies concocting such misleading plotlines? Based on the trailer for No Strings Attached (and the tagline "Can sex friends stay best friends?"), you would gather that Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) had been best friends for ages and finally just resorted to settling on sex with each other, you know, the whole When Harry Met Sally gamut. Not so.
Instead, our story commences in 1996 at a proverbial camp in Michigan. Not only are we supposed to know that it's 1996 by the title card "15 Years Ago," but also by the playing of Color Me Badd's "I Wanna Sex You Up"--in spite of the fact that said song came out in 1991 and if you really wanted to drive home the whole "it's 1996" point, you should probably be playing "Macarena" or Ace of Base. In any case, Emma and Adam are the only ones not making out, mainly because Emma is socially awkward and Adam's father, Alvin (Kevin Kline), is in the process of divorcing his mother so Adam's pretty much lacking in the libido department at that moment. Nonetheless, he still finds the courage to ask, "Can I finger you?" (and, by the way, out of everything on the menu, is that really the one sexual wish a dude would want granted?)
We then jump to the title card "5 Years Ago" and are magically transported to 2006, where, yet again, the music supervisor fucked up by choosing to play Nelly's "Shake Ya Tailfeather," which came out in 2003, to indicate as much. This time, Emma and Adam meet at a frat party (presumably at the University of Michigan) and realize instantaneously that they somehow know each other from somewhere. Emma, who goes to MIT, is only there because of her friend, Patrice (Sacramento's own Greta Gerwig. Congratulations on escaping, by the way). Unfamiliar with frat party behavior, she, once again, comes across as awkwardly endearing, prompting Adam to outright say, "I like you." Emma, in turn, invites him to her father's funeral the next day, after which they don't see each other for another four years.
In the present age, Emma and Adam both find themselves in Los Angeles (a coincidence that in and of itself implies they should be together being that there is such a rare likelihood of two wholly heterosexual people with a tender history together ending up in the L.A. vicinity). Emma is doing her residency and Adam is working on a teen-oriented show largely resembling Glee. After Adam learns that his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa (Ophelia Lovibond), is now fucking his father, Adam goes on a bender that leads him to call every girl in his phone until he finds someone who will let him "put his boner in [her]." This is how he wakes up in Patrice and Emma's apartment and this is the morning that the "no strings attached" philosophy commences between them.
Naturally, writer Elizabeth Meriwether takes the rest of the story in all of the usual directions: Emma recoils when things get too serious, Adam says he can't do it anymore, Emma pretends she doesn't care, Adam tries to have sex with Lucy (Lake Bell), a woman who works on the show with him, but doesn't really seem to want to--and then, presto! Adam and Emma admit they have mutual, not just purely sex-based feelings for each other.
The most disappointing aspect of No Strings Attached isn't that Elizabeth Meriwether is a worse version of Aline Brosh McKenna (of 27 Dresses fame) or that Ivan Reitman is continuing on the path of making leaden movies (his last was My Super Ex Girlfriend), thereby rendering Jason Reitman even more talented in comparison, but rather, what strikes me most is that Natalie Portman, after firmly establishing herself as an actress who favors quality over balls out commerciality would say, "Yes, this is the project for me." But then, maybe it's like her character says: "I think monogamy goes against our basic biology." Except, with reference to Portman, substitute the word "monogamy" with the phrase "not wanting to make money."