Montauk is a sleepy little beachside hamlet in the state of New York and is the perfect place to catch a wave and relax. At least, it was for local barmaid and Uber driver Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) until rich summer vacationers moved in and jacked up the tax rates! Falling behind, Maddie faces bankruptcy after the repossession of her car. Luckily for her, the perfect opportunity just appeared on Craigslist.
Wealthy couple Laird (Matthew Broderick) and Allison (Laura Benanti) have a curious problem they need taken care of. Their 19-year-old introverted son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) doesn’t drink, doesn’t drive, has no friends, and is altogether inexperienced in life. With Percy shipping off to Princeston University soon, his parents think it best that someone ‘date’ him in the fullest sense of the word. If Maddie can help Percy out of his shell, she’ll be rewarded with a new car which would solve all her problems. Maddie is a grown woman; she has no hang ups on sleeping with a man for personal gain and it wouldn’t even be her first time. How difficult could it be?
Extremely. The more forward her approach is, the more Percy recoils. This is a relationship that’s going to take a much softer touch and is one which will force Maddie to come to terms with her own issues with personal intimacy. As she grows to legitimately care for Percy, she realises that maybe he’s not the only one who needs a little help leaving the nest.
No Hard Feelings is the latest film from writer and director Gene Stupnitsky (with co-writer John Phillips). It’s actually been a surprisingly long time since we’ve had a major cinematic release of an adult orientated comedy movie. With Stupnitsky’s previous film, the hilarious Good Boys being one of the few in recent memory.
As much as I am a fan of Good Boys, I must say I was surprised to see Jennifer Lawrence attached here. A raunchy sex comedy isn’t exactly what I’d expect from the Oscar winning powerhouse actress. But No Hard Feelings excels by growing far beyond the confines of its basic premise. Although full of comedic hijinks, it becomes quite a deep love story about an equally messed up odd couple relationship beyond basic sexuality.
Lawrence is exceptional in a particularly brave role showing her maturity as an actor. The film capitalises not just on her beauty, but also that down to earth quality which made us fall in love with her all those years ago. A goofy scene of her on roller blades trying to make it to the top of these helicopter parents’ mountain home sums this up nicely. Thanks to this, Maddie is still relatable, even when at her catty worst.
The relative newcomer Andrew Barth Feldman gives a loveable performance as the endearingly naïve Percy. Working at an animal shelter and without an evil bone in his body, he at first seems too sweet to be true. But as we get to know him more, we see just exactly why he seems to be the only straight teenage boy alive who would turn down a promiscuous Jennifer Lawrence! We see that in many ways he is a child to her more adult character, but through that innocence is the more idealistic outlook on the world Maddie begins to find herself falling for.
Beyond the well-defined love story, No Hard Feelings is a hysterically funny film. Stupnitsky has a knack for creating laugh out loud moments which don’t stretch the realms of believability. The humour feels very real and even touching at times with its approach. That said, there’s still plenty of over-the-top hilarity including the best nude fight sequence since Eastern Promises!
No Hard Feelings is a nicely grounded romantic comedy with a heart-warming and witty script, featuring Lawrence and Percy sharing great chemistry while giving commendable performances that only elevate the film even further. No Hard Feelings is sure to be a hit with audiences and is, for me, one of this year’s most pleasant surprises.