Movie review: Jennifer Lawrence in the raunchy teen comedy ‘No Hard Feelings’

Jun 21, 2023, 10:37 AM

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jennifer Lawrence, left, and Andrew Barth Feldman in a s...

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jennifer Lawrence, left, and Andrew Barth Feldman in a scene from "No Hard Feelings." (Macall Polay/Sony Pictures via AP)

(Macall Polay/Sony Pictures via AP)

In a saner world, we would have already had a dozen Jennifer Lawrence comedies.

When aliens arrive they will surely go directly to IMDB to survey her filmography and wonder why one of Hollywood’s funniest and most naturally charismatic stars spent the first decade of her career in dystopias, action movies and whatever it is you call “Mother!”

As if to make up for lost time, Lawrence has in “No Hard Feelings” made the kind of R-rated teen comedy that has usually launched young actors. She plays a 32-year-old Montauk Uber driver who, desperate for money after her car is towed, is hired by the wealthy parents (Matthew Broderick, Laura Benanti) of a timid and sheltered 19-year-old (newcomer Andrew Barth Feldman) to take his virginity before he heads off to Princeton.

We’ve, of course, had plenty of movies about teenagers trying to get laid for the first time. But “No Hard Feelings,” directed and co-written by Gene Stupnitsky, may be the first in which the teen in question has seemingly no desire to do so. He’s heterosexual, his parents are sure based on his browsing history.

But when Maddie Barker (Lawrence) turns up in a tight pink dress and heels at the Long Island animal shelter Percy (Feldman) works at, he responds mostly with prickliness and fear to her come-ons. The encounter ends with Percy spraying Maddie with mace.

Now, a 19-year-old rejecting Jennifer Lawrence like this is potentially a good way to sever any possible connection the audience has with one of your main characters. It’s like having him smack a child. Some things are unforgiveable. Maddie and Percy go on a series of increasingly intimate dates, and Percy vows to eventually “put out.”

The basis of “No Hard Feelings,” all around, is fairly untenable. Even less believable than Percy’s response to Maddie is her involvement in this scheme in the first place. In the movie’s opening scenes, her car is towed away by a ghosted ex-boyfriend (Ebon Moss-Bachrach of “The Bear”). In the uber-rich environs of Montauk, Maddie is trying to hold onto her house — the one she grew up in — while foreclosure lurks.

Maddie, forced to rollerblade to her bartending job, may be financially desperate. But, say what you will about the gig economy, it offers plenty of alternatives to earning money besides sleeping with teenagers who cringe when the restaurant doesn’t have Pepsi.

And yet, “No Hard Feelings” works better than it ought to. The preposterousness of the set-up is, naturally, part of the joke. Feldman, who here resembles the awkward Linguini of “Ratatouille” brought to life, brings more sensitivity to the role than you would expect, and flashes of good comic timing. So uncomfortable is he on their dates that at the sound of a break in a nearby game of pool, he jumps like a frightened cat. Skinny dipping in the ocean, he doggy paddles.

And while the role forces Lawrence into raunchy situations that could easily be said to be beneath her, “No Hard Feelings” gives her plenty of room to showcase her talent at upending traditional ideas of Hollywood glamour. At every moment, she delights in undercutting her own sexiness; it’s not every A-lister who’s willing to film a beach brawl in the nude. Lawrence — Hollywood screenwriters take note — is more at home parodying the sex bomb than being one.

Yet while “No Hard Feelings” finally gives Lawrence (also an executive producer) a platform for some of the slapstick humor she’s so good at, it also feels like she’s been inserted into the framework of a quite male coming-of-age rom-com/fantasy. Big-screen comedies are dishearteningly few and far between these days, so it’s temping to applaud that “No Hard Feelings,” which opens in theaters Friday, simply exists.

Stupnitsky’s “Good Boys” cleverly shrunk a familiar genre — the house-party movie — into an R-rated romp for sixth-graders. But “No Hard Feelings” can feel stuck in adolescence. There are times here where you’re glad Lawrence is at least getting to act with adults. (Natalie Morales and Scott MacArthur are good as Maddie’s friends.) Lawrence could have easily carried a comedy that’s just on Maddie’s level, without the amateur-escort-for-a-kid storyline.

“No Hard Feelings” does, though, smartly dig into a generation gap in inverting the genre’s standard beats. Percy — and many of his classmates — are depicted as too tethered to their phones and too delicate to perceived offenses. In one scene, Maddie tears down the upstairs hall of a high-school party. Behind every door, there are kids not making out but calmly texting or playing video games — a portrait of Gen Z with plenty of basis in fact. Incredulous, Maddie exclaims: “Doesn’t anyone f—- anymore?”

“No Hard Feelings,” a Sony Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for sexual content, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use. Running time: 103 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

United States News

Associated Press

Court appointee proposes Alabama congressional districts to provide representation to Black voters

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A court-appointed special master on Monday submitted three proposals for new congressional districts in Alabama as federal judges oversee the drawing of new lines to provide greater representation for Black voters. The three proposals all create a second district where Black voters comprise a majority of the voting age population or […]

33 minutes ago

Associated Press

Dolphin that shared a tank with Lolita the orca at Miami Seaquarium moves to SeaWorld San Antonio

MIAMI (AP) — A Pacific white-sided dolphin who shared a tank with Lolita the orca at the Miami Seaquarium until Lolita died last month has been moved to SeaWorld San Antonio, where he will live with others of his species, officials said Monday. Li’i will be joining other Pacific white-sided dolphins in San Antonio, some […]

59 minutes ago

Associated Press

EXPLAINER: What is saltwater intrusion and how is it affecting Louisiana’s drinking water?

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — For months, residents in the southeast corner of Louisiana have relied on bottled water for drinking and cooking, with the water from the faucet coming out salty. Plaquemines Parish Councilman Mark “Hobbo” Cognevich, who represents the affected area, said grocery stores are constantly having to restock plastic water bottles, neighbors […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

At least 360 Georgia prison guards have been arrested for contraband since 2018, newspaper finds

ATLANTA (AP) — At least 360 employees of Georgia’s state prison system have been arrested on accusations of smuggling contraband into prisons since 2018, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, with 25 more employees fired for smuggling allegations but not arrested. The newspaper finds that nearly 8 in 10 of Georgia Department of Corrections employees arrested were […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Alabama inmate opposes being ‘test subject’ for new nitrogen execution method

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama inmate would be the test subject for the “experimental” execution method of nitrogen hypoxia, his lawyers argued, as they asked judges to deny the state’s request to carry out his death sentence using the new method. In a Friday court filing, attorneys for Kenneth Eugene Smith asked the Alabama […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Connecticut health commissioner fired during COVID settles with state, dismissal now a resignation

Connecticut’s Department of Public Health has reached a settlement agreement with the agency’s former commissioner, who was fired in the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. She had accused Gov. Ned Lamon of discriminating against her, a Black woman, by elevating several white people to lead the crisis response. The agreement, signed on Monday, settles […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Home moving relocation in Arizona 2023...

BMS Moving

Tips for making your move in Arizona easier

If you're moving to a new home in Arizona, use this to-do list to alleviate some stress and ensure a smoother transition to your new home.

Sanderson Ford...

Sanderson Ford

Sanderson Ford congratulates D-backs’ on drive to great first half of 2023

The Arizona Diamondbacks just completed a red-hot first half of the major league season, and Sanderson Ford wants to send its congratulations to the ballclub.



Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]

Movie review: Jennifer Lawrence in the raunchy teen comedy ‘No Hard Feelings’