It feels like it’s been years- maybe even decades since we’ve gotten a tried and true- irreverent, raunchy teen summer comedy release. We are living in an age where every movie feels required to be genre defining or subversive or IP driven, with very few releases willing to take the bold risk of being completely formulaic in the best of ways. Sometimes it’s ok to just stay in your lane and make a movie that, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, gives it a solid spin. “No Hard Feelings” is that kind of movie, a true return to form of raunchy summer comedies that manages to feel fresh even if it unfolds with safe predictability. Though not the best of its kind even if it is sticking to formula, Jennifer Lawrence delivers a tour de force comedic effort and proves that for all her dramatic talents, she can absolutely cook as a comedic actress. “No Hard Feelings” is laugh out loud funny and heartfelt, and despite taking little to no risks as far as its narrative goes, Lawrence’s comedic timing makes this one a solid, raunchy, hilarious summer comedy worth seeing.
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky (“Good Boys,” another solid raunchy comedy) from a screenplay by Stupnitsky and John Phillips, “No Hard Feelings” follows Maddie, a young Uber Driver and part time bar tender in the small coastal town of Mantauk. After facing bankruptcy that will result in the foreclosure of her house and getting her car repossessed, Maddie answers a craigslist add that offers a Buick Regal for “dating” their 19 year old son Percy before he goes off to college. Percy proves to be more of a challenge than Maddie had bargained for. An awkward, reclusive boy uninterested in dating, sex, or experiencing anything resembling new and adult experiences. She will have to pull out all the seductive tricks she can if she’s going to awaken the grown up in Percy and save her home before it’s too late.
There’s not a whole lot of inventiveness when it comes to “No Hard Feelings.” The plot is pretty straightforward and most of the characters are archetypes of the genre they are operating in. But none of that is pejorative thanks to Lawrence’s completely committed comedic performance and dedication to staying in the lane laid out by the film’s premise. It doesn’t seek to be anything other than what it is presenting, and relishes in the pure fun of a raunchy sex comedy that works best when you just go for it. It sparks some nostalgia for a time when this was a staple of summer movie going. Lawrence is charming and commanding, shouldering the comedy and elevating any aspect that may feel less inspiring. Without her terrific comedic turn here, “No Hard Feelings” probably wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.
That’s not say relative newcomer Andrew Barth Feldman as Percy isn’t good; he does just fine paired with Lawrence to created the wild child meets rigid awkward teen dynamic between the two of them. He also has some charm to him, and demonstrates some solid capabilities in front of the camera to be a compelling actor to watch in the future. They’re solid together, and the chemistry needed to make “No Hard Feelings” work at all is there enough to be worth taking the ride despite knowing the entire journey and eventual destination. There are simply no surprises here, but that isn’t always a bad thing. Stupnitsky has a solid knack for raunchy comedy demonstrated here and his previous work.
The film does suffer from the same kind of tonal imbalance as his previous outings (namely “Good Boys“) and though he’s locked down the humor and witty, foul mouthed one liners and sexual innuendo, he hasn’t quite mastered the complete blending of heart and humor. The film has plenty of both, they just don’t come together as seamlessly as the narrative would like.
All in all, “No Hard Feelings” is basic in its approach but effective thanks to the hilarious performance from Lawrence. I really hope she’s given the opportunity to do more comedy. She’s been a do no wrong performer for me for quite some time, the kind of actor that, even when the film isn’t that great, is typically the best part of whatever she’s in. This is no exception; a decent raunchy summer comedy at a time where the moviegoing experience and demand is wholly different but fills a void you didn’t know was missing.
Sometimes you just need to laugh at a good old fashioned sex joke, or watch Jennifer Lawrence fend of a bunch of punks stealing her clothes on a beach naked because she went skinny dipping at night. Yes, really.
“No Hard Feelings” may not be all that original, but it’s still a lot of fun and very funny, and worth checking out this summer.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
“No Hard Feelings” hits theaters June 23rd. You can watch the trailer below.