The colors of “No Strings Attached”

September 26th, 2011

This main set of the fictional high school TV series that employs Ashton Kutcher’s and Lake Bell’s characters only skips green and blue in its vibrant rainbow palette. Appearing a number of times in the movie, it provides a nice visual counterweight to an otherwise restricted and balanced color palette of the hospital and outside scenes.

This is one of my favorite set arrangements. Ashton Kutcher is in the foreground with his costume almost devoid of any color, playing off of his depressed state. The secondary attention shifts towards the couple sitting on the couch, surrounded by livelier blues and golden browns. Having reached the top right corner of the frame we arrive at a subdued yet playful texture that throws light turquoise and warm orange into the mix. Note that as you complete the scan, the bright yellow becomes increasingly more dominant, hinting at a much warmer atmosphere the further away we get from his character.

The hospital interiors are dominated by the cool blue steel hue, brightened by splashes of sand brown and deep red. Note how the reds are in a perfect balance around the visual center of the picture (to the right of Ashton), and how the sand browns form a counterweight diagonal that goes from Cary Elwes’ hair and tie towards Ashton’s shoe soles.

Another angle on the same scene, adding deeper sea blues of the stethoscope  and hints of all three primary colors on the blurry chart hanging behind his left shoulder.

A sea of desaturated turquoise is a perfect compliment to the brown hue of Natalie Portman’s eyes and hair. Soft streaks of neon red lights melt away into an almost imperceptible lilac, playing off of her lip gloss.

A wider shot of the same scene, with Natalie wearing a metallic blue shirt and carefully arranged streaks of neon orange, purple and blue lights.

Shallow depth of field keeps only Natalie in focus, creating a cloud of floating bokeh lights that dance in midair around her face. Follow the diagonal line from top-left to bottom-right that is defined by different shades of purple – from a lilac blotch behind the bokeh lights to her dress, lips and a pillow behind her left shoulder.

Production design: Ira Random
Art direction: Greg Berry
Set decoration: Danielle Berman
Costume design: Julie Weiss
Cinematography: Rogier Stoffers