- Hans Weber
- December 7, 2023
‘No Hard Feelings’ movie review: Jennifer Lawrence goes full frontal in sex comedy
A 30ish woman desperate to save her childhood home agrees to “date” the inexperienced 19-year-old son of upper-class helicopter parents in No Hard Feelings, which opens in Prague cinemas and worldwide this weekend. Thanks to some nice character work and two empathetic lead performances, this one is a little better than you might expect, though it loses its comedic bite about halfway through.
While the boilerplate outline for No Hard Feelings explicitly suggests a raunchy 1980s sex comedy along the lines of a Private Lessons or My Tutor, this film from director Gene Stupnitsky (Good Boys) has an unexpected heart. There’s an honest portrayal of both the older cougar and the inexperienced teen that elevates No Hard Feelings above other films of its ilk.
No Hard Feelings stars Jennifer Lawrence stars as Maddie Barker, a lifelong resident of Montauk who is being pushed out of her hometown by wealthy tourists. She’s about to lose her home if she can’t pay off the lien, and the bank has just repossessed her car, taking away her main source of income as an Uber driver. And just before tourist season.
Serendipitously, she just happens to come across a Craigslist add looking to exchange a used Buick Regal for what should be a quick job: “date” the loser son of a rich couple. Helicopter parents Allison (Laura Benanti) and Laird (Matthew Broderick) are worried about their 19-year-old’s lack of experience before sending him off to Princeton, and are looking for the right lady to show him the ropes.
It’s a needlessly complex setup for No Hard Feelings‘ simple premise; there are much easier ways of acquiring a car, and indeed, Maddie appears to have free use of two other vehicles before she gets her hands on the Buick. But it gets the film where it needs to be: Lawrence’s Maddie trying to get into the pants of the virginal Percy Becker (Andrew Barth Feldman).
The kid, however, protests to Maddie’s low-cut tops, double entendres, and sultry femme fatale demeanor: he insists the two get to know each other before taking the next step. And so the stage is set for a series of increasingly awkward encounters featuring Maddie attempting to bed Percy while he innocently tries to foster a meaningful relationship.
That includes No Hard Feelings‘ showstopping sequence: a skinny-dipping scene featuring a fully nude Maddie going toe-to-toe with some pranksters who attempt to steal their clothes. Cannily, the movie uses Lawrence’s full-frontal nudity to get us to see things from Percy’s perspective. The scene is frank and unerotic, the closest comparison being Viggo Mortensen’s naked sauna fight from Eastern Promises. The rawness is frightening; stay away, kid.
Of course, while Maddie was hired to tutor the kid in the realm of the bedroom, it’s the innocent teen who ends up teaching Maddie in the ways of love and life.
Lawrence gets a rare chance to flash some comedic chops here, and runs away with No Hard Feelings: her caustic brand of cynical humor sells what may have otherwise been routine as its ’80s counterparts. While only briefly featured, Zahn McClarnon, Natalie Morales, and Scott MacArthur are also fun as Maddie’s friends. And despite given the impossible task of balancing out Lawrence’s go-for-broke performance, Feldman respectably holds his own.
No Hard Feelings is not a complete success, and the comic waves the movie rides over its first half almost totally wash out during its final act as Lawrence’s Maddie drops her sarcastic bite. This one may split audiences: those sold on the raunchy premise won’t find much sex in this sex comedy, and others might not even give it a chance. But those that do will find some unexpected rewards.
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- Hans Weber
- December 7, 2023