'No Hard Feelings' review: Lawrence shines in a funny, heartfelt studio comedy
Courtesy of Sony
Something cathartic happened during my screening of “No Hard Feelings,” the very R-rated raunchy comedy starring Jennifer Lawerence, in which I shared in communal laughter with a theater full of people. Ten years ago, you could expect a new comedy, in the vein of “The Hangover,” “Ted,” or whatever new thing Judd Apatow was producing, to hit theaters on a regular basis. Now, thanks to moviegoing habits drastically changing, comedies, specifically R-rated ones, have become something of an endangered species. The days of a Farrelly Brothers comedy or “Knocked Up” making north of $100 million domestic is a distant memory, so it was refreshing and heartening to see “No Hard Feelings” played gangbusters to a crowded theater, as that’s something I’ve desperately missed about going to the movies post pandemic.
Obviously, it helps if the movie is good and “No Hard Feelings” brings the juice thanks to Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence’s commitment to absurd physical comedy and a wild premise that pays dividends throughout. It has the energy of “There’s Something About Mary,” complete with several laugh-out-loud gags, and the heart of a Nancy Meyers romantic comedy. It’s a genuine movie about friendship and the chemistry between Lawrence and her co-star Andrew Barth Feldman has an endearing sweetness that keeps you invested amid the tomfoolery. Which includes one sequence where Lawrence gets maced and another where she kicks the shit out of a bunch of hoodlums while completely nude.
Lawrence plays the down-on-her-luck Montauk, Long Island resident Maddie, who, thanks to an influx of affluent individuals to the seaside community, has seen her property taxes rise considerably within the last year. This has put a strain on her financial situation and to make matters worse, her vehicle has just been impounded, making a lucrative Uber side hustle useless. But hope springs eternal when she catches wind of a Craigslist ad from a pair of rich, overprotective parents (Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick - excellent) inquiring about someone to “date” Percy, their shy and awkward son who is going to Princton in the fall. If she succeeds, she’ll be given a rust-free Buick with only 40k miles as payment. No questions asked.
As Percy, Broadway star Andrew Barth Feldman embodies the right amount of nerdy and insecure beahavior that hilariously counteracts all the advances being thrown at him by Lawrence, who really throws herself at the wall. It’s funny, because Percy’s reactions aren’t forced or unhinged. You believe this is a weird 19-year old who spends most of his time on video games and can’t ascertain when an attractive woman is putting the moves on him. But as the movie ebbs and flows into different directions, the sweeter things become.
Percy becomes an integral part of the movie and an important figure in Maddie’s life. The pair open up and share deeply personal moments from their past and you can see a heartfelt friendship is blossoming. Not a forced romantic one. They’re changing each other’s perspectives, which is a story beat I didn’t expect from an R rated studio comedy about parents trying to get someone to hook up with their kid.
To be sure, there’s plenty of crass and abrasive humor that’s certainly NSFW, and writer and director Gene Stupnitsky, responsible for “Good Boys,” the last studio comedy to make money, subverts expectations about where “No Hard Feelings” is steering, though the script, co-written by John Phillips, also gives these characters room to breath and explore in a manner that never feels rushed. When the movie ended, it felt like we truly knew them. It’s a miracle “No Hard Feelings” both got made for theaters and ended up being a comedic winner too, so let’s hope people show up and we can have more of these experiences in the future. For my sake, please.
NO HARD FEELINGS is now playing in theaters.