No Hard Feelings (Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Barth Feldman, Matthew Broderick, Laura Benanti) – By the time Jennifer Lawrence (JLaw) was 30, she was inarguably the best actress of her generation with one Oscar from four nominations and being the highest paid actress in the mid-2010s. The only actress even close was Kate Winslet. Now (still only) 32, JLaw can name her project. Yet she chose to take time off from acting, to set up a production company, advocate for women’s rights, and become a spokesperson for several humanitarian causes.
The first time I saw her was in the independent film, Winter’s Bone, which earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination at age 22, the second youngest actress ever so nominated. I had missed her on TV’s Bill Engvall Show as a rebellious daughter and in small roles in little films. When watching Winter’s Bone, I told my wife: “She’s the real deal.” Indeed!
Even JLaw can’t save No Hard Feelings, her return to romantic comedies (rom-coms). My first reaction when I left the theater was “This film is beneath her.” She plays Maddie Barker, a broke waitress at a bar in Montauk, NY, the Long Island winter resort for rich New Yorkers. She lives in the house willed to her by her late mother. She can’t make her property tax payments; she’s estranged from her boyfriend and sleeps around; and her car was repossessed. To this point, the film shows promise as a different kind of comedy.
In desperation, she responds to an ad for a young woman to “date” the 19-year-old son of helicopter parents who are concerned about their reclusive, awkward, boy who is lacking in social skills. The parents, played by Laura Benanti of TV’s Supergirl and Matthew Broderick, the original, super-confident teen, Ferris Bueller, want their son, Percy, to come out of his shell and shtup a girl. They lost me right here! Maddie, in desperation, responds to the ad and sets about trying to lure the kid (Andrew Barth Feldman, who starred on Broadway in Dear Evan Hanson and on screen in one of the High School Musical sequels). It’s more difficult than it should be.
The rest of the film contains the merry mix-ups that always occur in the rom-com genre. The kid finds out what his parents are up to; Maddie develops real feelings for the kid; Percy rebels after he realizes the deception. Eventually, inevitably, mercifully, the movie ends … happily. Sorry for the spoiler! If you are thinking about seeing it, go for it. It’s safe; it’s light; it’s breezy. And, yes, as any research will reveal, JLaw goes full frontal on a beach in one of the best scenes in the film.
You can’t go wrong with a JLaw movie whether it’s Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, Joy, Causeway, Hunger Games, or the early X-Men films. But this is not a very good film, and it’s way below JLaw.