No Hard Feelings
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Barth Feldman, Matthew Broderick, Laura Benanti
“No Hard Feelings” is a summer cinematic palate refresh from all the superheroes and special effects.
While Jennifer Lawrence’s raunchy rom-com isn’t the movie of the summer, it’s refreshing to see the Oscar winner back in the type of manic roles that ignited her career.
Lawrence, who is naturally funny anytime a camera is on, plays the role of a financially desperate woman, a bit over the top. It’s almost as if she is trying to compete with some dialed-up Will Ferrell performance standard of comedy. The film eventually finds its grove, and so does Lawrence in the film’s more serious moments. At the same time, most of the outrageous comedy bits are featured in trailers and clips, and sarcasm and wit in the script land better than most of the bigger jokes.
In danger of losing her childhood home and having her income reduced significantly after her car has been repossessed, a 32-year-old bartender and Uber driver, Maddie Barker (Lawrence), embarks on a reckless gamble. Replying to a Craigslist ad to “date” a wealthy couple’s 19-year-old son, the goal is to get this withdrawn teen to drink, drive and lose his virginity before summer ends. Percy Becker (Andrew Barth Feldman) only has friends online, can’t function without his cell phone, and his wealthy helicopter parents make every decision. Maddie has her work cut out to break this kid in and get him closer to a typical teenager.
“No Hard Feelings” ends up being less of a raunchy comedy and more of a sentimental film....
The script is often more brilliant than the performances. In one scene, Maddie accuses the Princeton-bound Percy of being an idiot because he can’t even use a water hose. Yet she spends their first few dates playing the naughty vixen type, which isn’t what will turn this kid on. “No Hard Feelings” has a bizarre time passage problem, once in a skinny-dipping scene, a more obvious one later in a dinner scene with the parents. Sure, it’s a silly comedy, but let’s not throw out reality altogether. This modern version of “Harold & Maude” meets “The Graduate” relies in equal parts on Lawrence’s likeability as an actress, her energy on screen, and how many times she can surprise us in a somewhat familiar plot.
Newcomer Feldman’s big moment is an impressive (but likely dubbed) piano version of “Maneater.” One of the film’s most bizarre scenes is a fully nude Maddie fighting to get her stolen clothes back on the beach. What’s unusual about the scene is the rendering of Lawrence’s head on a nude female body (think the “Game of Thrones” walk of shame that digitally put actress Lena Heady’s head on a nude stunt double body). It’s a bit jarring and distracts from the wild crotch punches that leave all parties in agony. “No Hard Feelings” ends up being less of a raunchy comedy and more of a sentimental film about two unlikely people at different stages in their lives, inspiring each other to grow into better versions of themselves, a theme which is hard to dislike.
Lawrence’s energy and likeability navigates around some of the script’s sloppier choices.