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Review: 'No Hard Feelings' Is Here for a Good Time, Not a Long Time

By Melanie Fischer | Film | June 28, 2023 |

By Melanie Fischer | Film | June 28, 2023 |


nohardfeelings.jpg

Could comedy… be making a comeback?

First, there was Tim Story’s hilarious horror spoof The Blackening, and now, No Hard Feelings, the latest raunchy comedy from Gene Stupnitsky (Good Boys, Bad Teacher) from a script co-authored with John Phillips. Jennifer Lawrence stars as Maddie, a 32-year-old gig economy worker and lifelong resident of the rapidly gentrifying beach town of Montauk, New York, in the midst of a losing battle to pay off the property taxes on the house she inherited from her mother after her car gets repossessed. The situation looks hopeless until she comes across a decidedly unusual classified ad: a Buick Regal in perfect working condition could be hers—all she has to do is “date” Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), an incredibly awkward 19-year-old, for the summer to prepare him socially for college. Or at least, so goes the thinking of the masterminds behind the plot, his overly involved parents Laird (Matthew Broderick) and Allison (Laura Benanti).

Among A-list actresses working today, Jennifer Lawrence is particularly remarkable for her range. She’s one of those rare chameleons equally at home in a quietly dramatic indie or a bombastic romp, and after a long stretch of more serious fare, it’s a treat to watch her show off her comedic chops here. (Note: sure, if you wanted to play devil’s advocate you could try to argue that Don’t Look Up was a comedy, but that movie was neither funny nor good, so let’s just not go there.) Maddie is a hedonist and a shameless sweet-talker and Lawrence inhabits the role fully, including a jaw-dropping nude scene that is, ironically enough, all the more surprising for the decidedly non-sexual context in which it occurs.

Relative newcomer Andrew Barth Feldman—best known for his time on Broadway as Evan in Dear Evan Hansen and a guest starring role in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series—holds his own opposite Lawrence, and brings a compelling vulnerability to Percy. Where Maddie is an inherently fun character, Percy, the paradigm of a silver spoon kid if there ever was one, is the kind of role that could easily read as annoying instead of endearing in the hands of a less capable actor.

No Hard Feelings is fundamentally a fun, fleeting kind of comedy. We’re talking about an enjoyable way to kill a few hours here, not a modern classic of the genre. While there are some moments of genuinely surprising nudity, a few memorably raunchy jokes, and a remarkable degree of commitment to a bit involving a finger trap, this film is far tamer than its controversial premise might suggest. Much like how Jojo Rabbit’s provocative hook belies what is ultimately a very straightforward Holocaust-set coming of age story about growing up and being a good person, No Hard Feelings is, at its core, a paint-by-numbers studio comedy complete with (at times, contrived) character arcs about personal growth and a neatly wrapped conclusion that sticks firmly within the bounds of conventional values. The script is a heavily polished affair that handles all these plot mechanics as efficiently as possible, but the sheer volume of personal growth to get through inevitably leads to some slower, even at times somewhat hokey, moments that feel somewhat shoehorned, particularly in the third act.

Elevated by strong performances and buoyed by the relative dearth of mainstream comedy films these past several years, No Hard Feelings is worth a trip to the theater for Jennifer Lawrence fans and those simply in the mood for a good laugh. It’s not the kind of movie you’ll still be thinking about a year or even a month down the line, but it’s fun. Sometimes that’s enough.

No Hard Feelings is now playing in theaters.