In this era of cancel culture and political correctness, the genre of comedy, in general, has become a dying breed at movie theaters. It’s difficult to believe that it’s been 25 years since the raunchy comedy classic There’s Something About Mary came out. The Judd Apatow titles were mostly in the mid-2000s. The pool gets exponentially smaller when you talk about the subgenres of romantic and raunchy comedy. Writer/director Gene Stupnitsky’s No Hard Feelings, co-written by John Phillips, is the even rarer comedy combination of the raunchy rom-com.
The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as Maddie, a down-on-her-luck yet strong and determined woman with a checkered dating past. She needs a car so that she can make enough money to keep her cherished home. That’s when she notices a job listing with an offer she cannot refuse: a free car to whoever will date a couple’s (played wonderfully by Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti) sheltered, loner son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman).
Given the dearth of options available at multiplexes in recent years, this feels like fresh coconut water in the desert. We first got a glimpse of Lawrence’s comedic range in Silver Linings Playbook, and she embodies her awkward and quirky persona in public. Watching Lawrence perfectly deliver lines such as, “Hi, mind if I touch your wiener?” When she opens a door at a party and sees a couple on their phone and says, “Does anyone even f**k anymore?” it’s that much more shocking and hilarious since we haven’t seen anything like that in what seems like so long ago. It’s like catching up with an old, funny, outrageous friend.
“…a free car to whoever will date a couple’s sheltered, loner son…”
Balancing comedy with drama can be extremely tricky, but No Hard Feelings does it nicely because we end up caring for these characters. Maddie is a sexually-free woman who goes after what she wants but has trouble connecting with people on a deeper level. At the same time, Percy is unable to befriend anyone at all (other than his former male nanny, played by Kyle Mooney) because of his own past trauma. They’re an opposites-attract odd couple who start to care for each other. This is despite the fact that Percy hilariously maces Maddie in the face the first time they meet because he thinks she’s trying to kidnap him. They also both have a strange yet endearing affinity for hanging onto the hood of moving cars to show their love for each other.
I like that this plays a bit on the opposite of the She’s All That romantic comedy troupe of a female coming out of their shell and blossoming. Here it’s Percy. He just wants to be in his room playing video games, with limited interactions with the outside world. But as his relationship grows with Maddie, so does his confidence. We see his hidden talents, such as playing the piano while singing “Maneater” by Hall and Oates beautifully in a funny and touching scene.
Our fearless leader Chris Gore compared No Hard Feelings to Risky Business on the Film Threat Livestream. I can see that. They’re both young men coming of age stories, where a dominant and sexually adventurous female shows the male lead the ropes.
I love the chemistry between Lawrence and Feldman. The comedy is funny and unafraid, and importantly, it has a heart and emotion that works. We need more movies like No Hard Feelings.
"…funny and unafraid, and importantly, it has a heart..."