So the new Natalie Portman film No Strings Attached, her first outing after her probably Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan, is facing mediocre reviews. ‘It’s predictable!’ ‘All romantic comedies are predictable!’ ‘You’re a terrible person, Paolo!’ Ah, shut up. Yes, I concede that the movie gets crappier the more I think about it. For example, to my future children reading this – if you don’t cry or show emotion at my husband/your father’s ‘stupid thing’ of a funeral, but you cry for a guy, I will disown you. Nonetheless, I will give this movie a bone or four.
The cheerleaders in Adam’s (Ashton Kutcher) “High School Musical” esque show actually did high kicks. Like real cheerleader stuff. I can’t remember if they did stunts or flipping though.
There was a total of one realistic sex scene. I agree with Ebert that the multiple lead-ups to Adam and Emma’s (Natalie Portman) first consummation was pathetically ‘code era,’ and that their hair never fully get messy, but when they got there…Oh God, talking about realism in sex scenes in ‘film criticism’ is harder than anything else I’ve ever had to write. The aggression and the connection and hand-held camera capturing a long take and Emma’s (Portman) head practically buried in those pillows. Also, is that Kutcher with a normal person’s body? Congratulations to him. I imagine any other actor working out to the hilt if he was cast in this movie.
Natalie Portman’s relationships with male characters in her other movies aren’t necessarily romantic, and you can’t even say that about older, more respected actresses. She allows herself to be coupled in this film, and I’m one voice who believes that Kutcher and Portman make a decent onscreen couple. Also, her calling Joy and Lisa (Vedette Lim) ‘pumpkins’ is classic.
There’s also one scene with Adam and Lucy (Lake Bell) who bump heads while trying to kiss. I can’t remember the last time I saw that.
The supporting characters. They’re really letting Abby Elliott as Joy nail a Drew Barrymore impersonation? When the trailer was out around Christmastime (someone correct me on this), I thought that the movie was built around Adam’s line ‘You fight like a hipster.’ The film now seems like a free-for-all for the comediennes and actresses with or without comedy films under their belt. We probably have Portman to thank for the girl power, whose project includes producing female stoner movies and has Executive Producer credits to this film. Mindy Kaling’s trash talking humour, her character Shira telling Emma that she’s going to avoid her for being so depressing. We have Greta Gerwig successfully convincing us that her character Patrice is more sexually desirable than the then awkward Emma at one point in their lives. Other actresses include Talia Balsam, Olivia Thirlby, Lake Bell (playing neurotic middle management) and Olivia Lovibond, the latter two’s comedic talent were probably aided by the fact that this movie is my introductions to them.
There’s also Kevin Kline, playing ‘Great Scott’ Alvin or Adam’sfamous TV star dad, who almost steals the show through both the physical and delivery aspects of the comedy. 3/5.
Juno, its eponymous hero and the actress who plays her, Ellen Page, probably have slightly maligned reputations by now. The movie and character would be seen as aloof and jokey despite of her pregnancy, and the actress almost got typecast as the leading star of the indie pack. My ‘job’ is to tell you the readers that there’s much more to the film. I caught this movie four minutes in, and Juno’s in real distress, convincingly telling her best friend (Olivia Thirlby) on the other side of the hamburger phone that she’s a ‘suicide case,’ revealing her situation. But yes, she does deliver on the humour, so relax. It’s eight minutes in and she’s already covered pop culture references and ironic ebonics, and sells her lines efficiently. She understand exactly what she’s experiencing, by this part of the movie anyway. And there’s her and the movie’s conundrum during unexpected pregnancies – the slightly depoliticized choices of keep, adopt and abort. When she chooses to give up her child for adoption, she has to deal with the new characters as well as ones already in her life.
And no, the characters in Juno don’t all talk alike, with their different rages of old, conservative – both gentrified and not – Americana and new, snarky Americana. Even bit parts have their own ticks, just like every human being in a fictional universe like this one we live in. A lone pro-life protester who shouts that all babies want to get ‘bornd,’ or a goth, sexually active receptionist.
Speaking of quirky, there’s a bit of focus on the characters’ material possessions and moments of privacy. I already mentioned the hamburger phone. There’s the discarded living room set, the picture of prince Charles in Juno’s cheerleader best friend Leah’s room, love interest Paulie Bleeker’s (Michael Cera) maroon and yellow outfit combination while he’s putting deodorant between his thighs. While we’re at Paulie’s shorts, by the way, let me just say that yes, cinematographer Eric Steelberg isn’t Wally Pfister nor Roger Deakins, but correct me if I’m wrong, he did bring the most eye-popping movie in an otherwise sepia tone year. Brenda’s (Allison Janney) obsession with dogs, adopting prospective Mark Loring’s guitar. Again, my fascination with these objects root from my boring decor. Mark’s wife Vanessa’s (Jennifer Garner) contradiction of bourgeois chrysanthemums and Alice in Chains tee are given the same light of individuality as the possessions of the working class characters on the other exit on the highway.
Yes, Bleeker’s a nerdy jock anti-stereotype and Leah encourages her best friend’s new sexuality yet still cool enough to join a rock band. However, the movie has clichés. Product placements. Juno’s short body trying to walk opposite everyone else’s direction. Juno’s stepmom Brenda warning of something that’s gonna happen and being right. Speaking of which, I would like to congratulate the internet for not ruining the movie.
Despite her wit, thank God she isn’t always the smartest person in the film, where the adults also show her things that are as she says ‘beyond her maturity level.’ She has her flaws. She crosses the line with the people in her life, using the word ‘gay’ – Leah does too. Page is nonetheless amazing in this, giving more than expected for the role. There’s something even in the way Juno runs up the stairs to the bathroom that shows how inventive and physical she is in a role that’s more script-based. If there is a flaw to her performance, it’s her voice that usually isn’t this nasal. She also ends most of her snarky lines with a lower tone, reminding me of how a younger Jorja Fox would speak.
And who says the women’s picture is dead? Diablo Cody sprinkles her script with well-written female characters. As Leah, Thirlby supports her and moves furniture for her. She also does the best readings of the word ‘pants’ and ‘I know, right’ in the history of cinema. Vanessa’s slightly frosty demeanour ventures for need to have a child with sane amounts of caution. Janney plays Brenda as a sap with a Kristen Wiig outfit yet knows how to eviscerate anyone like she does in “The West Wing” in probably the film’s best scene. All three equally convince the audience that they’re the best parts of this movie in their moments onscreen.
The male supporting cast does wonders in this film too. J.K. Simmons as Juno’s dad Mac reinvents himself as the balanced, supportive parental cool from whom she gets her sense of humour from. Bateman as Mark Loring tries his best both to support his wife’s wishes to adopt while holding on to the youthfulness that Juno’s sparked within him. Cera knows how to convey anxiety only through his eyes – his face doesn’t move but it doesn’t need to. And despite seeing her at her worst, Cera’s Bleeker gives her the moment of tenderness when she needs it.
The trailers on the DVD include 27 Dresses who co-stars Jonathan from “30 Rock,” The Savages which I should have seen instead of Sweeney Todd and a digital copy promotion thing that ties-in with promoting Live Free and Die Hard.