No Hard Feelings
By: Adam Freed
The Hollywood movie machine is stronger with Jennifer Lawrence in the mix. After taking a multiyear layoff from theatrical releases, part maternity leave part streaming-induced hiatus in the form of Don’t Look Up (2021) and Causeway (2022), the Academy Award winner and A-list star returns with R rated comedy No Hard Feelings. Raunchy comedies have bubbled to the surface of the theatrical landscape with depreciating impact over the past decade, partially due to the perception that audiences are decreasingly willing to find humor in what may be interpreted as controversial or potentially offensive material. No Hard Feelings, for all of its merit, is the result of the dulled blade of modern comedy.
This isn’t to say that No Hard Feelings is completely void of comedic value. The image of a fully nude Maddie (Lawrence) battering a group of beach dwelling teens for interrupting a moonlight romance is a tremendous comedic swing from an actress in the midst of her first foray into the genre. The most precious gem unearthed by director Gene Stupnitsky is screen newcomer Andrew Barth Feldman, who plays Percy Becker, a 19 year old man-boy void of any skills that his helicopter parents feel will allow him social success as he prepares to attend Princeton in the fall. It is the unlikely, and somewhat taboo relationship that forms between the 32 year old Maddie and the aforementioned Percy that pumps blood through the veins of this film. What could’ve been a throwaway comedy, becomes an unexpected coming of age summer story worth watching. Evidence to this claim can be found in an unforgettable moment in which Maddie forces the naive Percy from his shell by demanding a public piano serenade. In the hands of lesser talents this moment may have been forgettable, yet the combination of Feldman’s sincere and captivating voice balanced perfectly with Lawrence’s wordless emotional embrace of the moment is without question the film’s apex and what will surely mark the beginning of Andrew Barth Feldman’s career.
No Hard Feelings is a funny, surprisingly heartfelt story that audiences in search of a brief summer escape into the air conditioned comforts of a theater will not regret. It should be mentioned that the film’s only location, Montauk, NY makes for an enjoyable backdrop to a light summer viewing experience. Fans of Jennifer Lawrence should not leave disappointed, as there is pleasure in witnessing her generational talent wade into somewhat unfamiliar waters. Comedy may never find the footing that it held in decades past, but there is a joy in having Jennifer Lawrence back on the big screen once again.