Movie Review TagNo Hard Feelings, starring a fearless Jennifer Lawrence, features a healthy budget, a unique location (Montauk, New York), discernible characters, a plotline in which said characters learn something about themselves, and it takes place on planet Earth. This is what theatrical films used to look like before we lost them to the malaise of streaming and the Marvel/DC takeover. But Gene Stupnitsky’s comedy is only sporadically funny and you wish he pushed the envelope a little further instead of being satisfied with a sluggish third act. Like hungry dogs in a kettle, the audience chews on every savory human moment, even if there isn’t enough meat on the bone.

Lawrence, who also produced the Sony Pictures-backed vehicle, plays Maddie, an embittered bartender and Uber-driver who pours every cent she makes into the house her mother left her after she died. She could care less about cultivating a relationship with anyone, especially men, who she basically uses for libidinous purposes. She only cares about keeping her house, which becomes an albatross around her neck.

In the opening, Maddie wakes up to her car being towed by an ex-lover, Gary (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who works for the township. She pleads with him to stop, she needs the car for her Uber gig and owes thousands in property taxes, but Gary remains indomitable. Not only did she ghost him after they dated for a few months, he can clearly see her new Italian stallion lover standing behind her.

Broke, tired, and pissed off that her livelihood depends on rich, douchey tourists who spend their summers in Montauk, Maddie discovers a Craigslist ad which could be her saving grace. A wealthy couple (Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick) are offering their family Buick to a young woman who can “date” their introverted, awkward 19-year-old son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), in order to pull him out of his shell before he attends Princeton. Although Maddie is a little older than they hoped, she gets the job and before you can say “slightly creepy,” she slips on her tightest dress and heads to the local animal shelter where Percy holds a summer job.

Maddie has her work cut out for her. Percy not only looks every inch his age (perhaps younger), he’s also more ungainly and graceless than she imagined. As a Gen-Z’er who’s spent his life playing video games, staring at his phone, and watching porn, Percy is all paranoid tics and gloom-laden vulnerability. On their first date, he literally jumps at the sound of people playing pool, spits out the Long Island Iced-Tea she orders for him, and bristles confusedly when she flirts with him. He also follows rules to a nauseating degree. When she takes him to the beach for a midnight skinny dip, he points out that there isn’t a lifeguard on duty. Maddie takes it all in stride. What she doesn’t expect is his sweet and generous nature, which eventually breaks down her unyielding wariness and cynicism.

The movie’s premise, as silly as it is, gives these characters room to blossom and mature. As Maddie and Percy grow closer, they realize they have more in common than they thought. Primarily, they’re both scared of the world at large. Maddie is a townie who’s never left Montauk, while Percy is terrified of going to Princeton after enduring a lifetime of bullying. These scenes have an emotional resonance you don’t expect from a raunchy sex comedy, though it’s light on raunch.

Dramatic turns are more than welcome since the gags start to wear thin after the first quarter. Stupnitsky and co-writer, John Phillips, have a tough time combining the bawdy themes and dramatic aspects of the story. Stupnitsky had the same problem in his last movie Good Boys, which also started with originality and promise, only to putter off into silly hijinks and people falling on their faces.

There’s no doubt that the director’s latest possesses a fun, laidback quality, but for a comedy that tries for a statement about the deep generational chasm between millennials and Gen Z’ers, it takes the easy way out. Just as we start to invest in Maddie and Percy’s struggles, the filmmakers get cold feet and shoehorn goofball moments (one involving Chinese handcuffs and another with a car driving into the ocean) into the story that are not only far-fetched but feel tossed together.  Why not do what forbears like John Hughes and Blake Edwards perfected? Let the characters tell their own story and get out of the way.

No Hard Feelings has a breezy, pleasurable quality, regardless. And let’s not forget Jennifer Lawrence, who’s as fiery as ever, bringing grit and sass to every vacillating emotion. She proves why she’s both a bonafide movie star and a comedic powerhouse. She gives an audacious and sexy performance, including a shocking moment that elicits audible gasps in the theater. Although the movie struggles to shift tones, at least it’s trying, which is more than what Hollywood has been doing lately.




















































































































































































Editor’s note: The disclaimer below refers to advertising posts and does not apply to this or any other editorial stories. LA Weekly editorial does not and will not sell content.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.