We review the raunchy, R-rated Jennifer Lawrence comedy No Hard Feelings, which sees the actress take on an uncharacteristically bawdy role.
PLOT: Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) must pay back taxes on her home, but as a ride-share driver, her livelihood is taken away from her when her car is repossessed. Thus, she answers an unusual ad, where a wealthy couple (Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti) offers a car to anyone willing to “date” their shy son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), who they want to come out of his shell.
REVIEW: No Hard Feelings is half of a good, old-fashioned, raunchy sex comedy. It’s unapologetic about its premise where Jennifer Lawrence’s Maddie is happy to deflower the virginal Percy for a free car. Still, as a concession to how controversial the premise is proving to be, it piles on the sap in the film’s second half. Nevertheless, it has some really funny moments and an outstanding performance by Lawrence, who has real comic chops.
Lawrence often gets pigeonholed in awards-bait style movies, but she nails the raunchy comedy here, delivering a pretty fearless performance. There are some bold moves, with Lawrence going full-frontal in a nude fight scene that plays like a comic riff on Eastern Promises. I can’t remember the last time a big star like her was willing to go all-out in that way, especially given how prudish Hollywood has become.
Her character, Maddie, is willing to allow herself to be used for financial gain, and the entire premise is dealt with in a pretty lighthearted way. The movie is a sex fantasy, similar to the eighties teen comedies like My Tutor or Losin’ It were. It helps that Andrew Barth Feldman’s Percy is highly likable.
Right off the bat, it’s made clear that Percy isn’t gay, so the fact that his parents are so eager for a woman to deflower him isn’t given any homophobic shadings. He likes girls; he’s just shy. However, he’s not especially weird either or portrayed as some Incel type. He’s just a friendly kid who hasn’t come out of his shell and has nice chemistry with Lawrence. While the two are at odds over her aggressive pursuit of him (which he rightly thinks is too good to be true), they quickly develop a genuine rapport. However, this leads to the movie’s eventual spiral into sappiness, with too much of the second hour played straight. Despite all the R-rated raunch, it’s sneakily sweet.
Director Gene Stupnitsky is one of the last directors still focusing on big-screen comedy, with him having written a similar turn for Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher and having directed the foul-mouthed Good Boys. People are whining about the plot, but the movie is smart about how it dismisses all the pearl-clutching you can see in people’s reactions to the trailer. Stupnitsky’s also assembled a nice supporting cast, with no one reduced to a stock stereotype. Even Ebon Moss Bachrach (from The Bear) as Maddie’s ex and Kyle Mooney as Percy’s Manny are given some three-dimensionally, with the former justifiably upset about being ghosted, while the latter has good reason to distrust Maddie’s motives. This could have been a simpler, dumber movie, but to its credit, it’s not.
Best of all, though, is that Lawrence and Barth-Feldman’s casting is spot on. They cast two personable leads and were their characters not so good-natured, it’s doubtful the movie would have worked at all. That it’s quite funny for at least half of the running time means it’s one of the better comedies we’ve gotten in a while, as the genre is all but dead. While I doubt this will lead to a comedy renaissance on the big screen, I had a good enough time with it that I wished Hollywood would return to making a good amount of R-rated comedies, as I miss having a good laugh in theaters. Comedies are better in a crowded theater, and this should play well with audiences not too precious about the plot.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/no-hard-feelings-review/