No Hard Feelings

Review by Marina Ashioti

Directed by

Gene Stupnitsky


Andrew Barth Feldman Jennifer Lawrence Natalie Morales


We need a dumb sex comedy romp in these trying times.



In Retrospect.

Let the record show that I wanted to enjoy this.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as a woman hired to “date” a wealthy couple’s introverted son in Gene Stupnitsky's unfunny comedy.

The mid-budget studio comedy fall from grace has been tragic, to say the least. A beloved genre that used to commandeer both box office and home entertainment for decades, its humour guaranteed to penetrate mainstream consciousness, is now risky, mostly unprofitable business. Slapstick comedies, action comedies, screwball comedies, rom-coms – they’ve all been subject to the ebbs and flows of public taste, yet today’s most quotable and culturally resonant language finds itself less in Apatow-isms. When memes and TikTok trends can be spread faster and wider than any non-franchise movie, the future of the studio comedy’s appeal can only continue to seem bleak.

Gene Stupinsky’s second directorial feature, No Hard Feelings, is a clear nostalgic throwback to the late ’00s humour of Superbad and The Hangover, and it does manage to hit a few of those notes, though it never really lives up to the promise of the raunchy R-rated comedy its trailers try to sell it as. Jennifer Lawrence, who is also an executive producer of the film, makes her first foray into comedy and stars as Maddie Barker, a role that seems to have been written only with her mind (see the “Where’s the pizza” era of #random 2010s humour that at one point even became synonymous with the actor), and she seems to be having a lot of fun with it.

She leans into the groove of the character, a 32-year-old Uber driver living in Long Island beach town Montauk, who faces bankruptcy after her only source of income – her car – is repossessed. With her home on the verge of following suit, she stumbles upon a Craigslist ad posted by a couple of helicopter parents (Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti). They offer a 2004 Buick Regal to any woman willing to “date” their textbook awkward 19-year-old son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) for the summer before he goes to college, as they fear that he’s not properly adjusting to adult life.

Odd couple flicks have to rely on the chemistry between their two leads for the formula to work. Luckily, Feldman and Lawrence bounce off each other quite well and give strong, committed performances, forging a solid enough emotional core to the relationship between Percy and Maddie. The bad news is, they’re let down by a hopelessly insipid, charmless script and predictable dramatic beats that lead to a tonally inconsistent final product that, by the third act, awkwardly shifts into a sentimental register.

Tedious jokes float aimlessly into space without ever landing anywhere, and at best, elicit a couple of rote chuckles in a sea of crickets. You’d think a premise this ridiculous would have the gall to lean hard into its utter absurdity and go as weird as possible. Instead, we get misguided attempts at commentary on Gen Z’s smartphone addiction, and a strange brand of wholesomeness forced down our throats.

Perhaps the demand for super low-stakes, “turn your brain off” studio comedies where the only point is cathartic laughter will one day return. It brings this writer no joy to report that No Hard Feelings isn’t the film to usher in that era.

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Published 22 Jun 2023

Tags: Gene Stupnitsky Jennifer Lawrence No Hard Feelings


We need a dumb sex comedy romp in these trying times.



In Retrospect.

Let the record show that I wanted to enjoy this.

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