The friend I was staying with this weekend, who I shall call R, encourages my worst pop culture impulses. Or perhaps I encourage hers. Either way, we decided we needed to view a double billing of No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits.
Sexism strikes again
All four lead actors (Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake) were charming. Portman’s Emma was my favorite character. Justin Timberlake’s Dylan was probably my least favorite, for reasons explained later. Therefore, No Strings Attached wins the leads.
Both films have terrific supporting casts. I loved the side characters in No Strings Attached – Emma’s neurotic med student roommates, Adam’s friends with bad advice, coworker Lucy, and Kevin Kline as one of the worst parents ever. Plus, there’s tons of brilliant cameos. Friends with Benefits wins secondary characters.
Final category: story. In No Strings Attached , Emma and Adam have been casual acquaintances for years. After beginning a casual sex relationship, Adam clearly wants something more while Emma isn’t ready to make an emotional commitment. While both of them come close to screwing things up, neither makes a truly awful mistake. Friends with crucial hyperlink Benefits’s Dylan and Jaime become friends first, then decide to sleep together. They obviously become something more, but Dylan isn’t ready to admit it – which causes him to say some very hurtful things about Jaime. She, of course, overhears them. That scene felt cliche and made me dislike Dylan, but overall Friends with Benefits was funnier, more realistic, and had a truer emotional core. Thus, Friends with Benefits wins, by a hair, the better storyline.
I slightly preferred No Strings Attached and R felt the same about Friends with Benefits. But both of us agree that if you’re going to watch a 2011 romantic comedy, it should be Crazy, Stupid, Love (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy) . Also, Thor had a terrific trailer. (It played before No Strings Attached .)
Then Friends with Benefits’s came along with Woody Harrelson as a manly, openly gay coworker and Richard Jenkins as Dylan’s father with Alzheimer’s
During an interview with Marie Claire UK, Oscar winner and “Jackie” star Natalie Portman revealed that her “No Strings Attached” co-star, Ashton Kutcher, was paid three-times what she was for the movie.
Portman blamed the disparity on an inflated asking price for Kutcher, which was based on his “quote,” or what agents presume is a star’s projected worth.
“I knew and I went along with it because there’s this thing with ‘quotes’ in Hollywood,” Portman said. “His [quote] was three times higher than mine, so they said he should get three times more. I wasn’t as pissed as I should have been. I mean, we get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazypared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar. In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”
This issue of agents’ quotes has come up before. Usually, stars have set minimums that their agents will accept for a project. The stars don’t always know these quotes, or ask, but women’s quotes are often much lower than men’s.
As one anonymous female Hollywood agent explained to Cosmopolitan, “Quotes are whatever [the actor] made before. They will do their research ahead of time: ‘Well, what are their quotes?’ And sometimes we’ll give them and sometimes we won’t, depending on our strategy. If it’s a small indie but we want a client to do it, and it’s a million-dollar indie, we don’t want to say, ‘Well, she made $5 million on her last movie.’ Because then they might not come.”