No Hard Feelings15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
Audiences’ appetite for certain films changes fairly often. Or at least that’s what studio execs would have us believe. The truth is, they really dictate what we see and when. So if one studio has a hit with a horror flick, chances are there will be a number of them that quickly follow.
So right now we’re in the superhero age of cinema. Although they’re still hugely successful, the sheer number of them are suffocating the opportunity for other types of films to be developed and released.
For instance, what was a main staple for film going audiences – comedy – has become somewhat of a rarity in today’s modern climes, particularly a rom-com as unusual as this. All the more reason to embrace a good one when it does come along then, as is the case with this sassy gem.
Despite living all her life in the quaint beach town of Montauk, New York, it’s becoming harder for Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) to do so; the rich swarm in for the summer months into their second homes, which is driving the prices of everything up. So much so that she’s struggling to keep up with the property taxes on the home left to her by her mom. And before she knows it, her car is being towed away as part payment in what she owes.
This makes her current position as an Uber driver particularly hard, without a car and all. And doing bar work shift isn’t going to cut it.
And then she sees an unusual ad online, placed by one of the wealthy families that come to her home town for the summer; they require a young woman to help bring their 19-year-old son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), who is soon off to Princeton, out of his shell, as it were. For doing so, a car will be given in exchange for the service.
Although her friends don’t think it’s a good idea, Maddie is quite keen on, as getting that car would certainly get her out of her current financial hole. So Maddie meets Percy, and begins the process of wooing him, as agreed upon with his parents, making for an unforgettable summer.
When it comes to her impressive body of work, Lawrence has proven that there’s really nothing she can’t handle, dabbling with most genres, including superhero ( X-Men: First Class), a successful sci-fi franchise (The Hunger Games), and drama (Causeway). One area she’s a little light on is comedy however, which is a shame, as she has that comedy gene as she effortlessly proves here.
This is US director Gene Stupnitsky’s follow up to his enjoyable 2019 debut Good Boys, continuing the coming-of-age theme. It plays out like a modern day The Graduate, with an older woman out to seduce a much younger man. The premise is undoubtedly flaky, as it’s unlikely a family would advertise for essentially a prostitute for their inexperienced son, but hey, it’s America, so anything goes.
And although the film is mostly from the perspective of Lawrence’s character, there’s no denying the coming-of-age aspect, which harks back to films from the eighties featuring America college students during their transitioning period into adulthood.
Lawrence is sensational in this outright comedic role, proving that it is very much one of her strengths; her Maddie is a confident young woman, who is fiercely independent and knows what she wants. She also puts up barriers however, due to her upbringing, so despite being outgoing, she can also be guarded.
And then there’s the young Andrew Barth Feldman, in his first lead role, coming out of the gate like an A student from the Michael Cera School of Acting. His Percy is a sensitive, shy soul, very inexperienced, especially around the opposite of sex. Cera would be proud, as there are echoes of some of his early roles, especially his George Michael from Arrested Development, with the perfect blend of puppy dog enthusiasm and social awkwardness.
Even though there’s a big age difference between the two characters, with Maddie being 32, it doesn’t play out as creepy as if it were an older man and younger woman – even though the film does allude to it in a fun way occasionally.
It’s a film of two halves, with the first being outrageously funny and bawdy, giving way to the more emotional side in the latter stages, as Maddie comes to terms with the fact that there are consequences to her actions. And overall, it’s a balance that works, with Stupnitsky getting some great stuff from his two leads, where even during some silly scenes, the audience go with it as having already bought into the two central characters.
With so many rom-coms few and far between these days, with what ones there are not particularly romantic nor funny, No Hard Feelings is a welcome addition, with its quirky humour, bold performances, and making an unbelievable relationship on paper believable on the big screen. It also has some truly laugh-out -loud moments, which seem to be somewhat thin on the ground of late.
Much like Lawrence’s character then, this is a film that makes it very easy to fall in love with.