When your resume has titles like Bad Teacher and Good Boys on it, a film like Gene Stupnitsky’s latest in No Hard Feelings kind of makes sense. It’s not like this film doesn’t show any growth by the writer-director also includes things like Trophy Wife, SMILF, and Hello Ladies, but when you find success in a certain vein, there is nothing wrong with staying in it to see where else it does. To understand the crew’s level of self-awareness of what this film is, there is even the phrase “Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence” in its trailers to up the level of absurdity that is placed upon the screen here.
Lawrence plays Maddie Barker, a lifelong resident of Montauk, New York who makes most of her yearly income during the summer tourist season as a bartender and Uber driver. When her car is taken by the county due to back property taxes, a chunk of her income goes with it and can only be salvaged by taking a gig to “date” the son of a wealthy couple (a mullet-ed Matthew Broderick alongside Laura Benanti as the parents of Andrew Barth Feldman’s Percy) to get him to come out of his shell the summer before he leaves for Princeton to get a new-to-her car. It’s not the ideal situation for anyone involved, and hilarity ensues.
The first act of No Hard Feelings didn’t seem to click for me as it felt like Lawrence and Feldman were working a bit too hard to sell the “overly aggressive sexually woman trying to put the full-court press on the inexperienced younger man” dynamic. Although it has some funny moments, it didn’t instill any real confidence in me about how the rest of the film would go. Luckily, once the story gets established everything else seems to fall in place as well. There is a little more of a story here than I was expecting with great supporting characters that are there just enough to keep the pace steady (great work here especially by Natalie Morales and Scott MacArthur as her best friends and expecting parents) and scenes that don’t try to hide the dynamic between its main characters. Is this The Graduate for a new generation? Not by a long shot, but I also don’t think this film is trying to be that either. There is something to be said for understanding one’s lane and staying in it, and that is what this film seems to be: a rated “R” comedy about the necessity to grow up and evolve no matter how old or young you may be while still holding on to who you are as a person.
This seems to be the summer of “raunchy” comedy, and while No Hard Feelings will be put in that category, its Venn diagram to others in its field may not be as crossed-over as you may think. There IS some nudity here and a LOT of adult language and situations, this is more about Maddie and Percy and how a Craigslist ad (which this script is based on) turns into a complicated friendship as both of them confront their pasts, presents, and futures.
And Ferris Bueller HAS A MULLET.