Jennifer Lawrence’s gyrations can’t quite bring about the great sex-comedy comeback in ‘No Hard Feelings’
Keep waiting for Hollywood’s sex-comedy comeback: No Hard Feelings can’t get it up enough to deliver any classic raunchy laughs, but its musky eagerness will arouse casual viewers into more than a few chuckles. What it definitely does deliver is full-throttle Jennifer Lawrence, a comic secret weapon willing and able to get down and dirty for a cheap laugh. Her silly sexpot chops are legit, committing completely to a half-baked role that really benefits from an Oscar winner who balances tough-cookie zingers with warm-hearted pathos despite a script that barely rises to the occasion.
NO HARD FEELINGS ★★★(3/5 stars)
Directed by: Gene Stupnitsky
Written by: Gene Stupnitsky, John Phillips
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Barth Feldman, Laura Benanti, Natalie Morales, Matthew Broderick
Running time: 109 mins
Writer/director Gene Stupnitsky’s sweet-and-sassy teen horndog romp turns the tables by making its 19-year-old Hamptons virgin Percy Becker (Andrew Barth Feldman) a shy romantic. His parents Laird and Allison (Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti) want to send him off to Princeton with a wet hot Montauk summer, so they put out a Craigslist ad to find a put-out girl—in exchange for a used Buick Regal. Down-on-her-luck local Uber driver Maddie Barker (Lawrence), a 32-year-old slutty hot mess whose house is near foreclosure, just got her car impounded and needs a replacement ride before she misses out on earning that seasonal income. So she accepts, since helping a high school grad bust his nut will help her make her nut.
“Date him hard,” his parents tell her. “I’ll date his brains out,” she replies. What’s clever in the film is how ridiculously difficult it is for them to have sex. Percy’s too uptight and clueless to pick up on her come-ons, and she’s so hapless as a honeypot that every seduction turns into a slapstick misfire involving either Mace, garden hoses, an alarming torso rash, stolen clothes, or Maddie speeding down a road with a naked Percy on the hood clinging for his life. “This kid is unfuckable,” she groans, exasperated. He also wants an emotional connection before he has sex, which might just be beyond her relationship-phobic reach.
Their age difference is even funnier: it’s a Millennial v. Gen Z mismatch, with Maddie shocked at how tethered Percy is to his phone and a cocooned life ensconced with his wealthy helicopter parents. “We need to call an adult!” he yells during one hairy situation. “You are an adult!” Maddie yells. When he slips her grip and goes into a pre-Princeton party at one kid’s swank summer mansion, she storms the castle looking for him and stumbles into a woke kegger.
After Maddie accidentally photo-bombs people’s Tik-Tok videos, a couple of teen jocks call out her MILF-adjacent hotness and she tells them to hook up with each other instead—and they, not seeing it as the insult she intended, turn around to call her homophobic while other revelers pull out their phones to shame-video her. Maddie flees upstairs to look for Percy, bursting into one bedroom after another where people are just staring at their screens. “Doesn’t anyone fuck anymore?” she cries.
No Hard Feelings is sorely missing an inspired climactic third act, instead using a stray Bluetooth signal to reveal awful truths that lead to disappointingly manic car shenanigans on the beach. When the movie really works, though, it works, like when Maddie goads Percy into jumping on the piano in a classy restaurant and he accompanies himself singing a disarmingly tender version of Hall and Oates’ “Maneater.” Even better is a skinny-dipping-gone-wrong catastrophe that leads to Maddie delivering a full-frontal ass whopping—vagina al fresco, tits akimbo—in what must be the first time a major movie star delivers the least arousing and most hilariously violent nude scene ever. It’s impossible to have hard feelings towards this movie after a high point like that.