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No Hard Feelings

Directed by Gene Stupnitsky
Produced by Jennifer Lawrence, Alex Saks, Justine Ciarrocchi, Naomi Odenkirk, and Marc Provissiero
Written by Gene Stupnitsky and John Phillips
With: Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Barth Feldman, Laura Benanti, Matthew Broderick, Natalie Morales, Scott MacArthur, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Kyle Mooney
Cinematography: Eigil Bryld
Editing: Brent White
Music: Mychael Danna and Jessica Rose Weiss
Runtime: 103 min
Release Date: 23 June 2023
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color: Color

When a movie studio in the twenty-first century makes a competently photographed and assembled R-rated comedy with a heart that’s actually funny, it should be celebrated because it’s a rare thing. Enter director and co-writer Gene Stupnitsky (Good Boys) and star / co-producer Jennifer Lawrence with their delightful quasi-sex comedy about a thirty-two-year-old cash-strapped townie in a rapidly gentrifying summer hamlet who decides to answer an ad posted by a couple of wealthy helicopter-parents looking for a nice girl to deflower their introverted seventeen-year-old son so he’ll fit in better when he goes off to Princeton.

The idea for the film apparently came from an actual Craigslist ad discovered by producers Marc Provissiero and Naomi Odenkirk. Had this story been made in the 1980s, the introverted boy would be the protagonist, and he (or his horny buddies) would have placed the ad in the local newspaper. What's so great about this movie is that, while it’s clearly going for an ‘80s throwback vibe (complete with a terrific use of the Hall and Oates song “Maneater”), this is 100% a comedy about our current era. All the jokes and many key plot points could only occur in the last ten years or so.

It's impressive that a picture like this can satisfy a Gen-X grump like me, who grew up spoiled with the wealth of great comedies of all stripes, AND play well to the generations that came after me, some of whom believe that all sex should be expunged from movies because it is “unnecessary” and “awkward to watch with other people." Provissiero even manages to thread the needle of the inevitable sex scene between his leads in a way that should work for those who would find the idea of such a scene “cringy”, and those who would feel the film copped out had the two characters never gone to bed together.

The key to the picture is Lawrence. She's a great actor who doesn’t get to flex her comedic side (so visible in interviews and on red carpets) nearly enough. She's also able to pull off awkwardness despite her movie-star beauty. Much has been made of this A-lister doing full-frontal nudity in this movie. For the scene in question, her body is fairly obscured by darkness and digital blurring in a way that feels like it was processed and approved by star, studio, agents, managers, and lawyers - like all Hollywood movies these days - but this comic scene still packs a punch (literally) and feels like it was at least filmed with genuine abandon.

As the kid, Percy, Andrew Barth Feldman holds his own with his Oscar-winning scene partner. Of course, were this film going for realism, Percy would be a monosyllabic shoe-gazer rather than a skittish, hyper-nerdy rule follower. But scene after scene of Lawrence trying to draw out a kid who won’t even make eye contact with her and only responds with "un-hun" and "I don't know" wouldn’t be much of a comedy.

Many things in the picture are a little too on the nose; there's some sloppy timing, and a few places where opportunities for great lines you can think of as you're watching are somehow missing. But these are outweighed by scene after scene, joke after joke, and observation after observation that rings loud and true.

It's also fun to see Montawk, New York used as a setting for a movie. Like the prior year’s Confess, Fletch the film uses the specifics of its location to mine narrative, thematic, and comedic material. But what’s most refreshing about No Hard Feelings is that it tells a simple, funny story that has a point of view without any of the virtuous subtext or meta meanings that seem to be all but required for a major release these days. Sometimes we just want to laugh.

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J-Law flexes her ample comedic chops in winning quasi-sex comedy about a cash-strapped townie hired by wealthy helicopter parents to deflower their introverted son. Gene Stupnitsky pulls off an R-rated studio comedy that should appeal to Gen-X and Gen-Z, no small feat.