No Hard Feelings (2023): 6 out of 10: Maddie Barker (Jennifer Lawrence), a 32-year-old struggling Uber driver and bartender in the picturesque town of Montauk, New York, finds herself in dire financial straits. Her car has been repossessed due to unpaid property taxes on the home she inherited from her late mother. Facing the looming threat of bankruptcy, Maddie takes an unconventional and mysterious opportunity from a Craigslist posting.
This opportunity comes from the Beckers (Matthew Broderick, Laura Benanti), a wealthy couple known for their cryptocurrency investments. They have an unusual request for Maddie: they want her to “date” their 19-year-old son, Percy Becker (Andrew Barth Feldman). In exchange for her companionship, Maddie will receive a Buick Regal, which could help her regain financial stability. Percy is a shy and sheltered young man who has had no experiences with girls, drinking, parties, or sex, and his parents hope that Maddie’s influence will boost his confidence before he heads to Princeton University in the fall.
Maddie’s journey to win Percy over takes an unexpected turn. When she tries to seduce him at the animal shelter where he volunteers, Percy mistakes her intentions and pepper sprays her. Despite the awkward start, they decide to go on a date, beginning a rollercoaster of events.
Maddie and Percy meet at a local bar, and later, they go skinny dipping at the beach. Things take a wild turn when a group of drunken teenagers (Christopher Bailey, Eason Rytter, Abigail Hupp) attempts to steal their clothes. Maddie, in the nude, fiercely defends their belongings, frightening Percy. He refuses to engage in sexual activity with her, but their connection deepens.
While trying to leave Percy behind, he jumps onto her car, still naked, and they end up in a wild chase with the police. As Maddie and Percy continue to bond, they attempt to consummate their relationship, but Percy’s anxiety leads to a rash. Maddie takes care of him, forging a more profound emotional connection.
Both Maddie and Percy reveal they never attended prom, so they recreate a prom night with a fancy dinner, where Percy showcases his piano skills. However, Percy encounters an old school acquaintance, Natalie (Amalia Yoo), who invites him to a party. A disagreement about their future plans ensues, leading Percy to attend the party, leaving Maddie to search for him.
At the party, Maddie discovers Percy in bed with Natalie, though nothing happened, after he took an ibuprofen with alcohol. Percy confesses his love for Maddie, changing the course of their relationship.
Percy decides he wants to stay in Montauk with Maddie instead of going to Princeton, prompting his father to offer her the Buick as an incentive to persuade him to go. This revelation leaves Percy hurt, and he invites Maddie to dinner with his parents, revealing his knowledge of their deal.
Amidst the emotional turmoil, Percy crashes the Buick into a tree, causing substantial damage. Upon returning, Percy attempts to be intimate with Maddie but prematurely ejaculates during foreplay. This betrayal leads to the end of their romantic relationship.
Maddie, determined to regain her financial footing, takes the damaged car and spends the summer working as an Uber driver to save enough money to save her home and repair her vehicle. She shares her success with her friends, Jim (Scott MacArthur) and Sara (Natalie Morales), who are also grappling with the high cost of living in Montauk and plan to move to Florida.
Maddie and Percy reconcile and pledge to remain friends as they navigate their futures. “No Hard Feelings” is a story of unexpected love, personal growth, and finding the courage to face life’s challenges head-on.
The Good: Though No Hard Feelings is a coming of age film and not the daring comedy as advertised, that does not mean it does not have some magnificent set pieces. It also has some excellent acting..
Jennifer Lawrences salary might have been half the budget for this film but she earns it. There is a set piece where a nude Jennifer Lawrence beats up three teenagers trying to steal her clothes on a beach. It is very funny. Not nude wrestling in Borat funny, mind you, but still hilarious.
Some of the supporting actors also bring thier A game including an older good looking Matthew Broadrick as the dad paying to get his son laid before college. And Jennifer’s best friend Natalie Morales encouraging her and berating her for her life choices in equal measure.
The Bad: When does No Hard Feelings take place? I mean by the cellphones and dissing Generation Z for being sex free phone addicts, I would think it is in the present day. But the soundtrack is right out of what, 1978? Look, I love Bob Seeger. He reminds me of when I was a kid. But come on, his first hit album came out around the same time Jaws did. He is a seventies act. The song that starts the film, Tommy James’ Draggin’ the Line, came out in 1971. I mean, this is my mom’s music, and I am in my mid fifties. Even Hall & Oates’ Maneater, which somehow is a major plot point of the film, came out a decade before Jennifer Lawrence’s character was even born.
And then we have the plot. This is a bog standard eighties coming of age plot. The closest example might be My Tutor, but this plot is as old as the hills. I have to give No Hard Feelings some credit for trying to resurrect it, but times have changed. Again, I cannot help but think the movie belongs in the late seventies, not 2023.
My girlfriend points out that Jennifer Lawrences character was definitely written by a guy. She didn’t expand on that, but I get what she means. For a movie that pretends to be realistic and down to earth (Though the townies vs the rich newcomers is another plot right out of an eighties comedy) the characters in the film are all underwritten. Not an issue in a fun comedy. No one is really concerned about the character development in Hot Tub Time Machine, for example. But when it is a stealth coming of age film as this is these things can suddenly matter.
The Ugly: Andrew Barth Feldman. Look, I am sure that Andrew is an excellent actor and a wonderful song and dance man. He is completely wrong for this role. Most of the issue is the script. His character has way too much emotional intelligence to be in the situation his parents describe. He looks too young, and the movie makes him too old. He is supposed to be nineteen and I suppose we are supposed to wink back at the filmmakers at the idea that a Princeton bound freshman was held back a year or two at some point during his schooling.
Andrew, however, looks more like a high school freshman than a nineteen-year-old senior. And that could have worked. Had this been a comedy where a desperate Jennifer Lawrence has to date an obviously underaged, oversexed boy that could have been a hilarious comedy. A black and awkward comedy, but funny.
Instead, No hard Feelings wants its cake and eat it too so we are supposed to believe that Jennifer has romantic feelings for Andrew. Lets go back to My Tutor. Not the greatest film ever by any means, but the lead character was definitely still in high school per the script and dad was paying his French tutor a 10k bonus to teach him more than French.
But the high schooler was played by Matt Lattanzi, who was a professional dancer, and who went on to marry Olivia Newton John later that year. He looked about as much a high schooler as Olivia did in Grease. That said, you could certainly understand the French tutor having feelings for him. I mean, lust is a feeling, yes?
No Hard Feelings chooses an awkward middle ground, between My Tutor and Summer of ‘42. I am not sure if anyone could have realistically pulled this role off, but Andrew Barth Feldman certainly could not. He lacks the charisma to be believable as a love interest.
In Conclusion: There are a couple of fun scenes in No Hard Feelings that make it worth the watch. That and a nude Jennifer Lawrence beating up teenagers on a moonlit beach. Plus, it really has a great soundtrack. Not appropriate for the movie, but great. I think they missed an opportunity by not including Cherry Bomb by the Runaways though.