It’s not uncommon that among the seismic blockbusters that dominate the multiplex every summer season, you’ll find a smaller sex comedy hoping to become a sleeper hit. This year’s raunchy romcom is No Hard Feelings, starring, and produced by, Jennifer Lawrence.
The film stirred up a fair bit of controversy online for its queasy plot: Lawrence’s down-on-her-luck bartender Maddie is hired by the rich parents of a virginal 19-year-old to date him in exchange for a new car, in the hopes of bringing the shy teen out of his shell. It’s pretty remarkable that, given the squeamish attitudes of younger generations, such a plot got made into a mainstream feature film. The ‘#problematic’ comments are misguided, however. The film clearly doesn’t condone Maddie’s actions and gleefully dives into the awkwardness of the situation.
The film succeeds largely thanks to two entirely committed performances from both Jennifer Lawrence and her young co-star, Andrew Barth Feldman. It’s no surprise that Lawrence, an Oscar Winner and four-time nominee, is brilliant as the kind of hot-mess persona her pal Amy Schumer perfected. J-Law’s comic timing is impeccable, flitting from flirty to aggressive on a dime. Feldman, on the other hand, is a revelation. A Broadway star with limited screen experience, Feldman holds his own against a juggernaut like Lawrence and manages to add depth to a character that could so easily have been just another McLovin.
Despite the strength of its stars, Gene Stupnitsky’s direction feels rather anonymous. Having directed the surprise smash hit Good Boys, Stupnitsky is clearly carving a niche for himself in dirty comedies with a sensitive side but doesn’t try to give much directorial flair to the proceedings, so much so that it ends up feeling more like a TV movie. The supporting characters, in particular Matthew Broderick’s wealthy dad, also feel underserved.
Nevertheless, No Hard Feelings has an unpretentious charm, a decent message, and a lot of proper laughs. For those who enjoy the simple joy of a raunchy sex comedy, this hits the G-spot.
A laugh-out-loud, boundary-crossing comedy, led by two terrific performances: this is a sex comedy with a surprising amount of heart