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:

National News

Associated Press

Montana man pleads not guilty to threatening to kill President Joe Biden, US Senator Jon Tester

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man has pleaded not guilty to federal charges alleging he threatened to kill President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, both Democrats, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana said. Anthony James Cross of Billings entered his plea on Tuesday. He remains detained. Cross, 29, has been […]

20 minutes ago

Associated Press

Remains found of Colorado woman Suzanne Morphew, who went missing on Mother’s Day 2020

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Searchers have found the remains of a woman who was reported missing on Mother’s Day in 2020 after she did not return from a bike ride near her home in the Salida area in southern Colorado. Agents with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation found the remains of Suzanne Morphew, 49, during […]

55 minutes ago

The University of Nevada’s basketball team could have a new home at an off-campus arena by 2026 u...

Associated Press

Reno casino expansion plan includes new arena that could be University of Nevada basketball home

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The University of Nevada’s basketball team could have a new off-campus home by 2026 under an ambitious 10-year expansion plan that Reno’s largest hotel-casino announced Wednesday. The nearly $1 billion private capital investment will be the biggest in the city’s history, according to officials of the Grand Sierra Resort. In addition […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

A murder suspect mistakenly released from an Indianapolis jail was captured in Minnesota, police say

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A murder suspect who was mistakenly released two weeks ago from jail in Indianapolis was captured Wednesday by the U.S. Marshals Service in Minnesota, where he faces charges in a 2021 killing, police said. Kevin Mason, 28, was apprehended in the afternoon in St. Paul, said Marion County Sheriff Kerry Forestal, who […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Florida school district orders removal of all books with gay characters before slightly backing off

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Top officials at a Florida school district ordered the removal of all books and material containing LBGTQ+ characters and themes from classrooms and campus libraries, saying that was needed to conform to a state law backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” Charlotte County Schools […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Man who was rescued after falling overboard from tanker has died

BOSTON (AP) — A man who was rescued by the crew of a commercial fishing boat after he fell overboard from a tanker has died, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said Wednesday. The crew of America pulled the man from the water Tuesday morning, and Boston Fire Department and Coast Guard personnel came aboard […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

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