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" There will be no shooting without my explicit instruction "
— Bruce Greenwood (as Robert F. Kennedy), Thirteen Days

MRQE Top Critic

Creed II

It's all about the importance of character and the ability to face life's challenges. —Matt Anderson (review...)

Creed II

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No Hard Feelings is a raunchy comedy with a heart of gold.

There’s Something About Maddie

Andrew Barth Feldman and Jennifer Lawrence
Andrew Barth Feldman and Jennifer Lawrence

There are moments in No Hard Feelings that call to mind the heyday of the Farrelly brothers with their special brand of off-the-wall humor in movies like the semi-raunchy There’s Something About Mary and the looney Kingpin. In No Hard Feelings, there are those wonderful moments of pure, golden awkwardness that bring a tremendous amount of grounded humanity to what otherwise could be so easily dismissed as a completely offensive and thoroughly inappropriate comedy.

After all, this is about a 32-year-old woman who’s promised a car (with only 40,000 miles on it) if she seduces a 19-year-old virgin living within a shell of pure titanium steel in the ritzy and super-expensive hamlet of Montauk on Long Island.

And, okay, maybe there’s an extra layer of eyebrow-raising when it’s revealed the masterminds behind the plot are the boy’s parents.

Yeah. It’s that kind of movie.

It sounds so dirty, but by casting Jennifer Lawrence as the seducer and Andrew Barth Feldman as the boy, along with Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti as the parents, it somehow manages to play out with a lot more thoughtfulness and humanity than would reasonably be expected, even with Lawrence’s full-frontal nudity (in a scene of full-on brazenness right out of a Farrelly flick).

Character Studies

Lawrence plays Maddie Barker, who is quite a piece of work. A common refrain among the locals would be something like, “There’s something wrong with you, Maddie.” She uses people. She ghosts people. She’s foul-mouthed. She stacks up a mountain of debt. She walks away from love and meaningful relationships. She drives for Uber and bartends to make her way through the struggles of trying to keep her childhood home. It’s certainly an interesting departure from her days as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, but Lawrence displays great comedic chops that extend well beyond Silver Linings Playbook and continues her knack for also being a pretty fearless actress in the wake of movies like Red Sparrow.

Her world comes tumbling down into a fresh level of desperation when her car — her lifeline — is repossessed. Serendipity lands in the form of a free Buick, but with the need to “work it” as the leading condition of taking ownership.

Maddie’s mark, so to speak, is Percy Becker (Feldman). The kid’s super-smart and headed to Princeton at the end of the summer. But he’s afraid of everything. He doesn’t date. He doesn’t have friends. He spends most of his time playing videogames and maybe playing the piano a little bit. In short, he needs to loosen up. His parents, in something that without any basis in reality can be described as their infinite wisdom, think losing his virginity will help him adjust to a new life away from their incessant parental helicoptering.

Getting past that alarming premise, the characters and the story are treated with a tremendous amount of heart by director Gene Stupnitsky and his co-writer, John Phillips; the duo also teamed on the movie Good Boys.

War of the Riches

Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti
Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti

It takes a hot second to recognize and realize Percy’s father, Laird, is none other than Ferris Buehler himself, Matthew Broderick. He’s gained some girth, but he looks comfortable in his character’s posh, laidback life of Montauk high society. And that is one theme that pops in and drops out on occasion: an argument the super-rich are destroying the neighborhood with their summer money. It’s certainly what’s pushing Maddie out of her home as she struggles to afford an increasing cost of living that exceeds her earning potential.

More could’ve been done with that angle to shore up a component of redeeming social value to offset the scandalous comedy. But, when a supporting character is introduced as a realtor, it’s revealed he’s something of a legend for all the wrong reasons. He slept with one of his high school teachers back in the day (he was classmates with Maddie). The irony of his situation compared to Maddie’s doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but, as he says, what the news didn’t cover was he also married the woman — and they’re still married.

It’s that poking and prodding of the state of society that leave a feeling of missed aspirations.

Nonetheless, while No Hard Feelings isn’t a miracle masterpiece of raunchy comedy and insightful social commentary, it does stick to the core of the story and build out a solid, fairly credible relationship between Maddie and Percy. Both of them wind up in a better place than where they started, and that alone is enough to leave with some feelings of satisfaction.

And there’s also a clever little metaphor that’s so innocently dropped into the mix: an old-school finger trap. The trick is to push it to get out and that little trick helps Maddie turn the corner and find a new course for herself.