With a title like No Hard Feelings, you already know what you’re in for. In the Gene Stupnitsky written and directed rom-com, a desperate, sexually progressive woman agrees to date a wealthy couple’s introverted, awkward, and sexless 19-year-old son before he leaves for college. Get it? No Hard Feelings.
In comparing what you expect from the film with what you get from the film, it definitely delivers. There’s comedy, there’s sex, and there’s plenty of feelings.
The premise is like a gender-swapped version of She’s All That, where, instead of a bet to turn a socially inept high-schooler into a popular hottie, a 32-year-old Jennifer Lawrence must give 19-year-old Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) his first sexual experience to bring him out of his shell – or she’ll lose her house.
Everything old is new again
This concept – hottie takes bet to date nerd and transform them into a beautiful social butterfly – is nothing new, (it has origins in Pygmalion, modernised via My Fair Lady) and I believe it was so thoroughly lampooned in Not Another Teen Movie that there hasn’t really been a successful take on it since.
No Hard Feelings mostly nails it by leaning into the absurdity of its premise. When in one visual gag it frames Jennifer Lawrence’s Maddy as a murderous stalker (a la Scream), it’s like a wink – because yeah, we know an adult woman pursuing a 19-year-old sexually is creepy.
Her first attempt at dating the young Percy goes so hilariously wrong that it ends with her scrambling in the dirt, maced at point-blank range and crying for help. As is the pitfall of most comedies nowadays, it does give a way a lot of its gags (including that one) in the trailer – so perhaps it’s best to forego watching anything beforehand.
Jennifer Lawrence has been touted as one of the true movie stars of our time, and it’s not hard to see why. She’s a true talent with incredible range, and she’s a very funny actor – who also happens to be an absolute smoke show. As Maddy she is 100% in her element, nailing the dry line delivery and goofy physical comedy beats – whether that be slowly scaling a staircase in rollerblades, or clinging to the hood of a speeding car.
The high point of the film is an enraged Maddy, who has been interrupted pre-coitus on the beach by prankster teens and decides she’s not gonna let them get the best of her by, um … baring her soul to them. And instigating a punch-on. This sequence will be burned into my brain forever, and I think it’s worth the price of admission alone to see. More JLaw comedies immediately, please.
Andrew Barth Feldman is perfectly cast as the sweet nerdy Percy, and he brings a calm energy to Lawrence’s mania that helps balance out some of the films more unbelievable moments.
The casting of Matthew Broderick as young Percy’s father is also on point. Many will remember Broderick from his 80s teen comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which he and his two friends nick his friend’s dads car for joyride around Chicago. No coincidence then that at the centre of No Hard Feelings‘ physical stakes is Laird’s (Broderick) Buick Regal, promised to Maddy if she can succeed in her task.
There’s a tendency now for writers and directors of feature films to steer away from using smartphones as plot devices (barring the omnipresent ‘smartphones are soul-sucking robots that will collapse society!’ in sci-fi – which isn’t wrong but is a tad tired). There’s a wide belief that the presence of smartphones would solve too many conflict points too quickly and thus diminish the narrative. And like, sure. But No Hard Feelings solves the problem of ‘smartphone as crutch’ quite effectively I think – just wait til the climactic moment that had everyone in the theatre gasping.
It’s not the most groundbreaking film you’ll see this year, and it’s certainly not the best rom-com ever. But I can guarantee you’ll laugh a lot. It delivers the gags at a good pace, keeps you guessing on the plot, and then it hits you, if you’ll forgive the millennial expression, ‘right in the feels’.
No Hard Feelings is funny, sexy, and a damn good time at the cinema. Get the gang together and go see it.
No Hard Feelings is in cinemas now. It’s rated R.