"I've had a one night stand before and gotten zero Buick Regals for it."
The newest comedy to hit movie theaters, "No Hard Feelings," is built on a ridiculous premise. Jennifer Lawrence plays Maddie, a local Montauk townie at risk of losing her home to gentrification and high property taxes. She answers a Craigslist ad from a wealthy couple looking to hire a 20-something woman willing to kick their introverted son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) out of his socially awkward phase before the 19-year-old heads to Princeton. Being 32, Maddie is most definitely out of Percy's league, but his parents promise her a Buick Regal if all goals are met.
That Buick is the answer to all of Maddie's problems, as she needs it to drive for Uber in the summer while folks from the city descend upon Montauk to take over the quiet beach town. She inherited the house she lives in from her deceased mother, and Maddie feels the house is her only connection to her family unit. Maddie's disdain for tourists and rich people is felt throughout the film, but her sex appeal largely makes up for her angry outbursts toward the affluent. This magnetism works well in the movie and introduces a problem for her when she's pitted against the willfully ignorant Percy. He initially dismisses Maddie as a crazed kidnapping adult and maces her during their "meet-cute."
"No Hard Feelings" is a sex comedy callback to the bygone era of the mid-2000s that has sorely been missing in today's politically correct entertainment climate. It takes no prisoners yet instills a healthy dose of heart along the way. Yes, the plot and some scenes are flat-out shameless, but that's what comedic timing is all about. Flimsy situations that Lawrence and Feldman dive head first into, demonstrating the Oscar winner's star power in ways she hasn't had a chance to until now.
As Maddie and Percy get to know one another, they open up about feelings and experiences never before shared with others. Maddie begins to care about Percy and wants him to succeed socially. The goal of obtaining the car is always top of mind for her, but she decides to prepare him for college by lifting him out of his helicopter-parent anxiety to become the man he's meant to be. These antics propel many references to Hall & Oates' "Maneater," dissected at length, and a high school party where Maddie feels her age.
The film is directed by Gene Stupnitsky, who gave us "Good Boys" and was integral in the success of television's "The Office." The humor of Stupnitsky's previous projects is alive and well in "No Hard Feelings," stretched to the imagination by Jennifer Lawrence's risk-taking bravado. It's the small choices she makes as an actor that really shine through, like the angry way she slaps a beer bottle down on the table any time Percy annoys her or her willingness to bare it all (literally) during a beach fight that threatens to ruin Maddie and Percy's first "date." Comedy is most definitely in Lawrence's wheelhouse, and her acting chops are on full display here.
"No Hard Feelings" isn't the greatest comedy to come along in recent memory, but it stands out for its bold attempt to please its audience with sincerity and vulgarity. The chemistry between Lawrence and Feldman is tangible, even if it's meant to be illogical. The supporting cast includes Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick as Percy's equally strange parents, Natalie Morales and Scott MacArthur as Maddie's well-meaning local friends, and "The Bear" actor Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Maddie's ex-boyfriend and feuding towtruck driver.
Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟1/2