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No Hard Feelings (A Movie Review)


Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Barth Feldman, Matthew Broderick, Laura Benanti, Natalie Morales, Scott MacArthur, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Hasan Minhaj, Kyle Mooney, Jordan Mendoza, Amalia Yoo, Alysia Joy Powell, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Matthew Noszka, Zahn McClarnon, Madison Odenborg, Christian Galvis, Matt Walton and Christina Catechis.

Screenplay by Gene Stupnitsky & John Phillips.

Directed by Gene Stupnitsky.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 103 minutes. Rated R.

Throughout her career, Jennifer Lawrence hasn’t exactly been known for her light touch. From first getting notice as a teen in the stark Winter’s Bone to her popular breakthrough in the Hunger Games and X-Men franchises to a series of downbeat films like Silver Linings Playbook, Red Sparrow, …mother, Passengers and The Beaver, Lawrence has acquired fame, acclaim and even award notice. However, her films were notably dark.

Every once in a while, she’d do something a little bit more comic – like American Hustle and Don’t Look Up, but those were usually in huge ensembles, and they also were not completely funny, they were what they used to call “dramedies.”

Therefore, it was kind of a surprise to see the trailer for No Hard Feelings.

Is Jennifer Lawrence making a teen sex comedy? That hardly sounds like her.

Well, she did, at least sort of. It’s kind of a teen sex comedy, but not really. And it’s pretty hysterical, greatly due to the game willingness of Lawrence to say or do anything, literally anything, to gain a laugh. (Seriously, occasionally Lawrence throws herself into the role as selflessly as she did in things like …mother and Red Sparrow.) She allows herself to look foolish, immature, unfeeling and out of touch – just to get a laugh.

Just the fact that she can make her character so relatable and likeable – when she’s playing a woman who is willing to sleep with a teenager who she has never met just to get a free used car (and it’s a 20-year-old Buick Regal, of all things…) – is really kind of incredible. Hell, one slapstick highlight has her on the hood of a car, her clothing on fire, as it drives straight into the ocean. You don’t get more committed to a role than that.

Turns out that Lawrence should take this side of her talent out for a spin much more often. No Hard Feelings is a surprisingly funny film and Lawrence is a terrific comic actor. Also, less surprisingly with the social atmosphere of the world these days, the raunchier bits are slightly outnumbered by the parts where film turns out to be rather heartwarming.

Lawrence plays Maddie, a 30-something former local beauty queen in a New York beach town. Her life has gotten somewhat out of control. She dates constantly but is horribly commitment-phobic, leaving a series of bitter exes around town. She drinks too much. She’s working two dead-end jobs (bartender and Uber driver) just in an attempt to make ends meet.

When her car is impounded (not surprisingly, the tow truck driver is an ex), she loses one of her steady income streams. If she doesn’t pay off taxes, she may lose her childhood home, which was left to her by her late mother.

This is particularly dangerous because her town has become a gentrified tourist location, with prices and taxes skyrocketing. Real estate agents are constantly hovering to buy the little place, tear it down and put up a McMansion, which Maddie absolutely refuses to do.

Therefore, at her low point she goes on Craigslist to find a very cheap car to keep up her Uber route. She finds an odd ad, but one that may get her out of her problem: a pair of helicopter parents offering a free used car for a woman who would be willing to “date” their insecure teen son before he goes off to college.

Of course, she doesn’t realize what a social trainwreck the kid is until she meets him. Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) is extremely shy, completely cut off, with no friends or even outlets for his thoughts and feelings except online. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t party, doesn’t do anything dangerous or even the least bit risky. And he seriously has no game whatsoever, or even a clue that Maddie is basically throwing herself at him.

This job may be a bit harder than Maddie thought.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that as the two get to know each other, they become friends, and help each other to grow out of each of their ruts.

It’s not a revolutionarily risky film (although in some ways, it is very risky in today’s PC world), but it’s fun, funny and sweet. What more do you need?

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: June 23, 2023.

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