No Hard Feelings

On the brink of losing her home, Maddie finds an intriguing job listing: helicopter parents looking for someone to bring their introverted 19-year-old son out of his shell before college. She has one summer to make him a man or die trying.



No Hard Feelings movie review (2023)

No Hard

The landscape of R-rated studio comedies has evolved, with theatrical releases becoming rarer amidst the dominance of streaming platforms. Universal Pictures often leads the charge in adult comedies, exploring innovative concepts like “Cocaine Bear” and “Renfield,” blending mature themes with children’s concepts, such as the upcoming “Strays,” and capitalizing on comedians associated with Judd Apatow, as seen in “Bros.” However, a standalone comedic platform for an A-list star outside of Universal seems like a distant dream. Yet, Sony Pictures, in collaboration with Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, has transformed this dream into reality with the audacious ’80s-inspired R-rated comedy, “No Hard Feelings.”

Helmed by Gene Stupnitsky, known for “Good Boys” and co-creating Freevee’s “Jury Duty,” the film revolves around Maddie Barker, portrayed by Lawrence, a struggling Uber driver in her early thirties on the brink of financial collapse. Maddie’s car is repossessed by her vengeful ex, Gary (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), her late mother’s house faces foreclosure, and her part-time bartending gig barely covers the bills. In a desperate move, Maddie responds to an unconventional job posting that promises a Buick Regal as compensation. The catch: she must date a wealthy couple’s (Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti) introverted 19-year-old son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), over the summer, help him break out of his shell, and guide him through his first romantic experience before he heads to Princeton. All of this must be accomplished without Percy suspecting his parents’ involvement. Initially underestimating the challenge, Maddie finds herself struggling to connect with Percy’s awkward, anxiety-ridden personality.

Jennifer Lawrence, since her departure from Creative Artists Agency in 2018, has marked her return to the big screen with a refreshing departure from the intense roles she previously embraced. Her days of Oscar-worthy performances and exhausting franchise commitments are behind her. With each new project, Lawrence’s artistic agency and creative freedom take center stage. In “No Hard Feelings,” Lawrence fearlessly embraces her comedic prowess.

Inhabiting the spirited and sharp-tongued Maddie, Lawrence revisits her comedic roots, reminiscent of her role in 2007’s “The Bill Engvall Show.” Her performance encompasses the same comedic finesse displayed by luminaries like Anna Faris, Charlize Theron, Emma Stone, and Regina Hall—actresses known for effortlessly shifting between sensuality and zany behavior. Lawrence’s impeccable comic timing shines, especially in Maddie’s acerbic comebacks and insults. Even for an artist of Lawrence’s caliber, her dedication to outrageous physical comedy is astounding. Her antics as Mystique in the “X-Men” films pale in comparison to the hilariously memorable scene where Maddie engages in a pro-wrestling showdown with a group of teenagers while in her birthday suit.

While “No Hard Feelings” boasts Lawrence’s brilliance, it also introduces Andrew Barth Feldman, making a remarkable leap from Broadway to the silver screen. Feldman’s portrayal of Percy adds a delightful contrast to Maddie’s character. Unlike Gary in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza,” who pursues older women, Percy diligently maintains his commitment to abstinence. This juxtaposition fuels comedic moments as Percy’s timid disposition complements Maddie’s outgoing nature.

The eccentric chemistry between Lawrence and Feldman injects the film with humor that often transcends the material. Regrettably, the film’s best gags are largely spoiled in the well-edited trailer, which maintains a brisk pace, swiftly transitioning between jokes. Conversely, the final cut tends to linger on actors’ reactions to the unfolding absurdity. Throughout the film, one waits for an original, uproarious moment—unfortunately, such a moment remains elusive.

Director Gene Stupnitsky is no stranger to merging authenticity with the absurd, as demonstrated in his previous work, “Good Boys.” His co-creation of the series “Jury Duty” followed a similar path, featuring the endearing non-actor Ronald Gladden. However, “No Hard Feelings” grapples with a script that struggles to seamlessly integrate its raunchy humor and heartfelt moments. The film’s attempts to elicit both laughter and emotional resonance often feel forced and disjointed.

No Hard

The movie reaches a comedic peak midway through, only to abruptly shift gears. It forsakes dating misadventures in favor of exploring the intertwined stories of two lonely individuals from disparate generations and classes, influencing each other’s growth. While these narrative elements exhibit depth, they bear a striking resemblance to themes explored more successfully in “Licorice Pizza” and Lawrence’s previous lead project, “Causeway.” Consequently, the film’s latter half loses the outlandish comedy that initially defined it, trading it for a seemingly unrelated script’s character-driven drama.

Were it not for the outstanding comedic synergy between Lawrence and Feldman—whose charisma and camaraderie provide ample laughs—”No Hard Feelings” might have faltered. Instead, their dynamic elevates the movie to a passable summer comedy that is likely to delight Jennifer Lawrence enthusiasts. Nonetheless, it’s evident that Lawrence’s talents could find more impactful outlets elsewhere.

The film is currently showing in theaters.

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No Hard

Country: USA

Genre: , ,

Director: Gene Stupnitsky

Writter: Gene Stupnitsky, John Phillips

Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Barth Feldman, Laura Benanti

Duration: 1h 43m