NO HARD FEELINGS. Jennifer Lawrence is the queen of comedy [REVIEW]

No Hard Feelings is bathed in genre clichés, but it makes good use of them.

Lukasz Homziuk

25 June 2023

I’d be lying if I said No Hard Feelings surprised me in any way. But I would be even more wrong to argue that I was spinning in my chair and counting the minutes to the end. Gene Stupnitsky made a very schematic and predictable film, but at the same time quite funny and pleasantly flowing. And most importantly, he proved that Jennifer Lawrence was born to star in raunchy comedies.

Everything revolves around the car. In the first scene, Maddie’s car is towed away. The woman loses her means of transport and source of income at the same time, because until now she has been supplementing the meager salary of a barmaid by driving an Uber. Taxes are constantly rising, and next to the vehicle is the apartment in the queue for recovery. So Maddie does not think long and accepts an unusual offer: in exchange for a brand-new car, she has – to quote her employers – “dating hard” with Percy, the son of a rich couple, to help him get out of his shell a bit before leaving for Princeton. The assignment is absurd, but also trivially simple, especially since Maddie certainly does not lack charm or the gift of persuasion, and she is all too used to fleeting romances lately. Things get complicated quickly, however, as Percy refuses to go to bed with Maddie until he gets to know her well. Plus, he doesn’t look sheltered so much as raised in a cave (he thinks the song “Maneater” is literally about a man-eating monster).

The clash of opposing personalities and different interests gives a lot of reasons to laugh for the viewer and many opportunities for the actors to prove themselves. Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely flawless. She imbues her heroine with such a concentration of energy that Maddie, trying to seduce her boyfriend, resembles a hungry tigress on the hunt. At the same time, she is far from a simple caricature – a glance at the woman’s face reveals that behind the facade of a sharp razor blade there is quite a tender inside. Her co-star Andrew Barth Feldman plays a more one-dimensional role, but he does a great job of capturing the childlike innocence of his character. However, it is only together that Lawrence and Feldman reach the next level. Their amazing teamwork is undoubtedly the driving force of the film. The same cannot be said about the plot development of their characters’ relationships. I don’t need spoilers to get an idea of what’s going to happen. The further you go, the more emotionally deepening the bond between the characters becomes. Maybe it would have been heartwarming if only Maddie and Percy’s friendship hadn’t been so far-fetched.

The most interesting element of the pretext plot turns out not to be the love adventures of the two heroes themselves, but the class subtext that entwines them. Although Percy’s parents envy Maddie that she has lived in Montauk since childhood, which is the object of many tourists’ sighs, they have nothing to envy her. The town is undergoing accelerating gentrification, as a result of which people with thin wallets are less and less welcome in it, and their belongings are taken over and transformed into more attractive places. Maddie directs her anger at this state of affairs to wealthy people like Percy’s family moving to Montauk. This plot is as interesting as it is problematic, because it makes it harder to believe in a thriving relationship between a woman and a boy, especially since there is not a single suggestion in the entire film that Percy is interested in Maddie’s financial troubles. It is therefore hard to resist the impression that Stupnitsky outlines the class context only to finally ignore it.

No Hard Feelings is bathed in genre clichés, but it makes good use of them. While Stupnitsky wasn’t aiming to forge new paths for comedy, but simply to provide good entertainment, the plan was rather successful: in a week’s time I probably won’t remember many scenes, but the screening gave me a much-needed respite. My only regret is that although the creators take up a controversial topic (see: the significant age difference of the heroes) and brand the film with ribald humour, No Hard Feelings remains a very conservative work. Meanwhile, a good comedy often requires a bit of madness and an open gang ride. Jennifer Lawrence showed with her performance that she is ready to take risks. I wish her directors and screenwriters who can keep up with her.

Lukasz Homziuk

Lukasz Homziuk

A student of cultural studies in Wroclaw, Poland. He can watch everything, although he usually prefers arthouse over Marvel.

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