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No Hard Feelings is being marketed as the type of adult-focused sex comedy that used to be a little more common years back. But don’t go in expecting another American Pie or Road Trip here. While there are certainly some moments of “naughty” humour, it’s less of a raunchy laugh riot and more of an inoffensive, light comedy that follows the rom-com trajectory.
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Maddie, a down-on-her-luck, 32-year-old woman who’s in desperate need of cash to pay off the house that she inherited from her mother. Seeing as she’s also an Uber driver, having her car repossessed really puts her in a bad way. An opportunity pops up in a Craigslist post: parents are looking for someone to “date” their ultra-shy, awkward son, 19-year-old Percy, played by Andrew Barth Feldman. They’re hoping that he can get some… life experience in before hitting college. In exchange, they’re offering up a car, a Buick Regal. Maddie accepts the mission, but Percy proves to be a little more of a challenge than she was anticipating.
The film is driven by two likeable leads and their strong chemistry, with Lawrence, in particular, being the film’s core strength. She puts in a good performance as Maddie, showcasing some strong comedic timing and a surprising amount of physical comedy. More than her on-point humour, though, Lawrence makes Maddie a well-rounded character – one with plenty of flaws, but with a charm and self-awareness that keeps her likeable and understandable.
Feldman, who hails from musical theatre, matches Lawrence’s presence perfectly. He nails the obvious caricature elements of the “virgin nerd” in the early stages, but, more importantly, does well with the more dramatic layers as Percy is fleshed out. His chemistry with Lawrence is very strong – a necessary factor in a film that, ultimately, doesn’t have much else going on.
It’s a simple premise and it’s handled in adequate, unsurprising fashion by director and co-writer Gene Stupnitsky, making his second feature here following his fantastic 2019 comedy Good Boys. The screenplay, which Stupnitsky penned with Dirty Grandpa scribe John Phillips, crafts its characters simplistically and draws on a variety of tropes when it comes to motivation. While the script does touch on some more dramatic subtexts, such as maturing, the different role that sex can play for different people, and over-nurturing, it does so in no substantial way. That being said, there is a nice bit of heart that makes its way through thanks to the relationship that unfolds.
The film has a few subplots that aren’t really explored well enough to warrant being there: Maddie’s ex, the gentrification of New York village Montauk, Percy’s potential love interest, Natalie – all left dangling. And what’s with Percy’s nanny? This character is drawn up to be a potentially important plot development, or some kind of rival against Maddie and… nothing.
The comedic setups, while mostly unsurprising, do provide some chuckles – even if the marketing spoils a few too many scenarios. There’s nothing all that memorable on the adult humour side of things, in my opinion, although Lawrence’s out-there beach brawl scene is a standout. The comedy, along with the themes being presented, would have benefited greatly from a gutsier approach. Too often I was left wishing they had just gone… harder.
So, yes, No Hard Feelings is certainly flaccid in some areas, but it does manage to stand up with the strength of its two stars and an earnest, breezy charm. It gets the job done.