Directed by Gene Stupnitsky | Written by Stupnitsky and John Phillips | 103 min |▲▲▲△△ | Crave
The marketing for this comedy does a disservice to it. It shares most of the outrageous moments, without giving the picture’s overall tone. No Hard Feelings is a raunchy, R-Rated comedy — we get some full-frontal nudity here — the likes of which Hollywood’s not that interested in making for theatrical distribution these days, but it’s also a bit of a heart-warmer about two people who find a platonic connection. It’s also a stealth class comedy, which is maybe the thing I liked about it the most.
Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence, committing) is a 32-year-old Uber driver who’s never found her way out of her resort town, Montauk, New York. She’s living in the house that used to belong to her mother, but she’s struggling to pay the bills and is concerned she’ll lose it to the bank. When her car is repossessed, she’s got to find some new ways of paying the bills. A wealthy couple (Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick) hire Maddie to date their 19-year-old son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) because he’s painfully awkward and is about to go to Princeton — they’re afraid he’ll never survive. “Date him. date his brains out,” says Broderick. If it works, Maddie will earn a late model Buick.
Naturally, Percy doesn’t know of his parents’ plans and Maddie comes on strong. A lot of this unlikely courtship is pretty funny. Percy is painfully sheltered, but he isn’t an idiot, which is a fine line to walk — Feldman does a terrific job. Lawrence is something of a revelation as Maddie — she’s clearly having a blast.
Once we’re past the outrageousness of the scenario and we start to get to know these characters, just spending time with the two of them is fun. They’re both easy to kind of fall in love with and root for.
This material is gonna upset some folks — for its laissez faire attitude to sex work and the possibly creepy overtones of a 32-year-old woman all over a 19 year-old-guy who looks more like he’s 15 — but as the film regularly reminds us, Percy’s an adult. I appreciate that the film is making clear where it stands, politically, and damn the torpedos.
Beyond that, the reason Maddie can’t afford her life is due to skyrocketing property taxes, which is a result of gentrification in her town. Percy and his parents are part of the problem, which makes this a real class comedy. A scene where Maddie attends a Princeton party is one the best moments in the movie for how it skewers those privileged, clueless kids, but also gets under her skin.
Not every joke lands the way it should, and the third act is a real mess — things really fall apart as the filmmakers try to land this thing while also making a few entirely predictable choices. But it’s still worth a watch. Full marks to Lawrence for taking a shot at something we haven’t seen from her before.