The Under-Ranked: “No Strings Attached”
This weekend, director Ivan Reitman of such classic comedies as Stripes, Meatballs and Ghostbusters will release his newest film, No Strings Attached. In the film, Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher play two friends who decide to go for a friends-with-benefits situation. While it starts off as harmless fun, the duo soon realizes that there may not be such a thing as just harmless sex. While the idea of friends becoming something more may seem somewhat generic, the talented cast suggests something possibly different. So before you check out No Strings Attached this weekend, maybe give some of these under-ranked films from its stars a chance.
This year, Natalie Portman has deservedly been receiving plenty of accolades for her role in last years Black Swan. With a Golden Globe win for best actress last weekend and pretty much a lock for at least a nomination at the Academy Awards, Portman is starting off 2011 right. But one of Portman’s greatest roles was vastly overlooked in 2009’s Brothers (available on Netflix Instant Watch, as is the 2004 Danish original). Portman played the wife of a soldier, brilliantly portrayed by Tobey Maguire, who goes missing in Afghanistan. When his brother, Jake Gyllenhaal, comes to help take care of the family, tension and uncertainty overwhelm the family as they attempt to move on. Portman is beautifully restrained as she is forced to deal with the possible loss of her husband while also maybe moving forward with her life. The three young actors anchor this difficult film without going over the top. Brothers is perfect in its simplicity and the internal struggle between the trio is as moving as any drama in recent years.
While Portman is getting an overwhelming amount of awards and nominations this year, one actress who is being overlooked from one of their great roles is Greta Gerwig. For years, Gerwig has been fantastic in independent films like Baghead and The House of the Devil, but she really shined with Ben Stiller in last years’ Noah Baumbach film Greenberg. Stiller plays the title character, who moves from New York to California to housesit for his brother. Greenberg, who is over analytical and a chronic pessimistic, meets his brothers’ sweet and unusual assistant, played by Gerwig, a surprising friendship begins. Baumbach’s characters are notoriously unlikable, but Gerwig’s character of Florence adds heart that has is been notably absent in Baumbach’s previous works. The combined power and chemistry of Stiller and Gerwig makes what is arguably Baumbach’s best work.
Another great actress who has been phenomenal in supporting roles is Olivia Thirlby. In only a few short years, she has shown remarkable depth in such films as United 93, The Wackness and most famously as the best friend to Ellen Page in Juno. However in writer/director David Gordon Green’s 2007 film Snow Angels, Thirlby stands out in a cast, which features some of cinema’s current best. In Snow Angels, a separated couple, played with great strength by Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell, are further torn apart when their daughter goes missing. Paralleling their story is high school student Arthur, performed by newcomer Michael Angarano, whose babysitter as a child was Beckinsale. Arthur starts to come out of shell once he meets Thirlby, a fellow member of his school’s marching band. Snow Angels is a painful look at the loss of a child and the downhill battle it is for everyone involved. Green, who would go on to focus on comedies such as Pineapple Express and HBO’s “Eastbound & Down”, but Snow Angels is such a powerful film, it’s hard to not hope he goes back to what he started with the great dramas he started off with.