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Review: ‘No Hard Feelings’ is a Risqué Rom-Com that Falls Awkwardly Short of the Genre’s Best

June 23, 2023Ben MK

The modern-day sex comedy has entertained audiences for decades; and while some moviegoers may consider the genre little more than throwaway entertainment, to others, it's a veritable right of passage. Be it Animal House, Porky's or American Pie, many of us probably remember our first. And now, with No Hard Feelings, director Gene Stupnitsky is aiming to recreate that experience for a whole new generation of viewers, in this raunchy rom-com about one unlucky-in-romance girl who finds herself in the awkward position of dating a guy who may very well be undateable.

An attractive but emotionally troubled woman with a history of broken relationships, 32-year-old Maddie Barker (Jennifer Lawrence) is a notorious commitment-phobe who has spent her entire life in Montauk, Long Island. The daughter of a single mother whose dad walked out on them when she was just a little girl, Maddie splits her time between tending bars at one of the local tourist traps and being an Uber driver. Unfortunately for her, neither her part-time job nor her side gig has been enough to help her keep up with her various bills payments and property taxes. So when Maddie's car, which also happens to be one of her vital money-making tools, is repossessed, the immediate reduction to her income forces her to embark on a desperate quest to seek out new opportunities to earn some quick cash, as she fights to avoid losing her family home and most treasured possessions.

Enter Laird and Allison Becker (Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti), a couple of rich, helicopter parents looking to give away their Buick Regal in exchange for help bringing their introverted 19-year-old son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), out of his shell. A gifted student who prefers video games over the company of other human beings, Percy seems like an easy mark for Maddie, who's so confident that she'll soon be driving away in her new Buick that she's already bragging about it to her married friends, Sara (Natalie Morales) and Jim (Scott MacArthur). What Maddie never expected in a million years, however, is for her and Percy to actually become friends. And when Percy eventually figures out that Maddie and his parents have been conning him, it puts Maddie in an uncomfortable spot, as she's forced to choose between saving her house and saving their relationship.

Suffice to say, it's not hard to predict how No Hard Feelings will turn out, as the script doesn't do much to deviate from tried-and-true rom-com tropes and genre clichés. Like the old saying goes, though, it's not the destination, it's the journey. And insofar as the chemistry between Maddie and Percy is concerned, Lawrence and Feldman do their best with what they have to work with. Whether it's a moonlight skinny dip that goes hilariously wrong or a heartfelt confessional in which both emotions and true intentions are laid bare, the film's two stars do a commendable job selling their characters' plights to the audience. Sadly, the rest of the movie isn't quite up to the same challenge. And so despite the sincerest of efforts from its leads, the result ultimately disappoints.

From its awkward pacing to jokes that fall flat, there's much about No Hard Feelings that will leave viewers wanting. What stands out as the film's biggest missed opportunity, however, is the fact that it fails to leverage Lawrence's on-screen charisma and comedic range. Make no mistake, fans of the genre ought to still be able to wring a modicum of enjoyment out of the movie's play-it-safe storyline. On the other hand, if you're expecting anything near the same caliber as its Oscar-winning star, you'll likely be left with some resentment.

No Hard Feelings releases June 23, 2023 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for sexual content, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use. Its runtime is 1 hr. 43 min.

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