Imagine a movie so unhinged it features an entire scene of Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence kickboxing a group of teenagers on the beach in nothing but her birthday suit. Well, there’s no need to imagine further because No Hard Feelings comes out this Friday and it’s full of hilariously raunchy scenes just like this… and many many more. Director Gene Stupnitsky, who has co-executive produced over fifty episodes of The Office and written both Good Boys (2019) and Bad Teacher (2011), is clearly no stranger to comedy. Along with his co-writer John Phillips, who penned the script for the Robert DeNiro and Zac Efron comedy Dirty Grandpa (2016), it’s safe to say this pair are more than adequately equipped to spearhead a raunchy slapstick that hilariously parodies the paradigm of sex work. Although, the biggest draw of this movie comes from Lawrence’s long awaited comedy debut, as she seems to only ever star in dramas yet remains one of the funniest actresses in Hollywood.
When local bartender and Uber driver Maddie Barker (Lawrence) struggles to pay her bills, she loses her car and is on track to lose her late mother’s house next. Maddie lives in Montauk, a beautiful beach town that has slowly been taken over by those rich enough to purchase properties to live in for the summer and keep empty all winter. Though Maddie inherited a coveted piece of property from her mother, she remains behind on property tax payments thanks to the arrival of the elite and their contribution to the now risen cost of living. Much like the other locals, Maddie’s stuck in a financial pinch amidst an identity crisis. It seems Maddie’s only reasonable option left is to reply to a Craigslist ad posted by two wealthy parents who are concerned for their young son Percy’s (Andrew Barth Feldman) social identity as he begins his last summer vacation before going to Princeton in the fall. He’s shy, sheltered and inexperienced… all the things Maddie is surely not.
In Stupnitsky’s latest comedy, Lawrence must seduce this young virgin in exchange for a new car while keeping him in the dark about the nature of the arrangement. What ensues are a series of rambunctious events (that may or may not include driving past a moving train while hanging off the hood of a car completely naked) which end up bringing the pair a lot closer together than they originally anticipated, leading to a ripe conflict that pushes audiences to wonder just how this love story might end.
The comedy in No Hard Feelings comes from the dynamic combination of Lawrence’s Maddie Barker and Feldman’s Percy Becker, the latter of who is an extremely sheltered and socially anxious computer nerd and the former is a thirty two year old maneater and the type who gobbles up grown men for breakfast. The funniest parts of the film live in their chemistry, which is also where the heart of the movie grows. The film does well in tying you in and pushing you to feel for its characters, especially Percy, who holds his own next to Lawrence’s reputable charisma. Feldman is a joy to watch on screen, hysterically acting as Lawrence’s antithesis and proving his charm and talent on more than one occasion (but especially during the scene at the restaurant—you’ll know when you see it!).
No Hard Feelings was one of my most anticipated films of the month and it only fell slightly short of my expectations. Stupnitsky and Phillips do their best in channeling an authentic female experience and it’s clear Lawrence does everything and more to maximize what she’s given in the script, although the movie suffers through a number of pitfalls that feel as though the comedy dial turns down from a strong seven to a wobbly five. This movie is no Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher or Easy A but is still a fun movie to screen on a girl’s-night-in that boasts a big heart and some genuinely funny moments. Hopefully this isn’t the last time we see Lawrence in a comedic role of this nature and next time I pray she’ll have more creative freedom to improvise and steer away from the script, as sometimes the writing seems to shackle rather than empower.
I’m praying to the movie gods that this is the first of many Jennifer Lawrence comedies. It’s what the world needs—and deserves! Watch No Hard Feelings in theaters everywhere this Friday, June 23rd.