Sometimes the marketing department has their hands tied in how to market something they’re trying to promote. I’m not entirely sure what the idea behind the marketing strategy of No Hard Feelings was because selling it as this absolute cringe comedy wasn’t the right method. Sure it’s from the director of Good Boys, Gene Stupnitsky but he also wrote and directed some of The Office, including Scott’s Tots and Dinner party – so cringe comedy is definitely in his wheelhouse but there is something wholesome about No Hard Feelings that the trailer just misses. Regardless, No Hard Feelings is downright hilarious, with an impeccable performance from its leading lady Jennifer Lawrence and is sure to bring the laughs, the cringe, and some down right great moments. Think Stuber meets Good Boys meets Bad Teacher and you essentially have yourself No Hard Feelings.
The film focuses on Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) whose on the verge of losing her house. Aside from bartending in this quaint summer destination, she also does uber on the side to help make ends meet and the summer is literally the gold rush for three months. When her car gets repossessed for lack of payment/seizure of assets, she has run out of ideas until she stumbles across an ad written by Allison and Laird Becker (Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick respectfully). If someone can get their reclusive son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) out of his shell before he goes to Princeton, that person can get their old beat up Buick. Of course, Maddie has no reservations about doing this as she needs a car, but what ends up being set up as the cringiest one night stand ever, blossoms into something vaguely touching and about human connection that far exceeds its plot about needing life experience before going out into the world.
What makes No Hard Feelings truly work is the brilliant performance by Jennifer Lawrence. Most of her career has been playing these strong uplifting characters, or roles that were designed to get awards attention but she finally gets to let loose and put it all out there in a comedic vehicle. I didn’t think it would work as well as it does, but she truly manages to nail the comedic aspects, wear her heart on her sleeve at times and make this truly outlandish and ridiculous comedy something that is grounded and present while still being absolutely hilarious.
Aside from Lawrence, Andrew Barth Feldman delivers an exceptional performance as well. He is grounded and confused why this noticeably older woman (though he thinks she’s still younger than she actually is) is interested in him, and for as smart as he is, his street smarts are slightly off. However, his ability to play curiously innocent works for his character and is slightly even infectious and playing off the complete opposite end of the spectrum in Lawrence makes for a really great dual of personalities. Truly this is a movie that works simply because of the chemistry shared by the cast and the chemistry shared between Feldman and Lawrence is truly exceptional.
What Gene Stupnitsky manages to create is the perfect blend of cringe and heart that is grounded by well rounded performances and some interesting story choices. While the plot is not entirely unconceivable, especially with today’s helicopter parents, the execution is done spectacularly. Everything about No Hard Feelings works, and the comedy is launched to an eleven and truly shines throughout the movie. Lawrence and Feldman shine, and they both prove to hold their own in relatively unfamiliar territory, hopefully Lawrence brings more of her comedic chops with her in future projects and Feldman, once he leaves Harvard, can continue doing movies or whatever he wants to pursue. No Hard Feelings is possibly the comedy of the summer, and will certainly leave audiences with uproarious laughter.