“I know you were looking for someone early to mid-20s. I’m slightly older.”
“Right. How old?”
“I just turned 29.”
“So you are 29?”
“And how old are you, like, right now?”
“One more year older.”
This is one of the most hilarious interactions from the 2023 comedy movie ‘No Hard Feelings,’ in which Jennifer Lawrence’s character casually tries to hide her age during an interview with a wealthy couple who have placed an ad seeking someone to ‘date’ their 19-year-old son and ‘bring him out of his shell’.
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky, who co-wrote the script with John Phillips, ‘No Hard Feelings’ delivers what it promised in its trailer and posters – a pretty awkward but fun comedy where both its 32-year-old and 19-year-old protagonists come of age. Obviously, the plot is far-fetched and silly – Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) is broke, so she makes a secret deal with a wealthy couple to make a man out of their inexperienced, asocial son before he goes off to college, in exchange for a Buick Regal as payment. But wooing 19-year-old Percy Becker (Andrew Barth Feldman) turns out to be harder than Maddie expects!
Jennifer Lawrence has great comic-timing as the confident, go-getter Maddie, who practically scares the shit out of the shy Percy when she hit on him at a pet shelter he volunteers. From causing a traffic jam while commuting on skates, beating delinquents while naked, to giving an awkward Percy a lap dance, Jennifer Lawrence makes scenes that might have been cringe-worthy to watch quite funny for viewers. There’s very little chemistry between Maddie and Percy, which only makes “No Hard Feelings” more humorous than it would’ve been. The two of them are extremely different individuals, with a big age gap, a bigger social/class divide and a lasting romance does seem close to impossible between them.
Andrew Barth Feldman, as Percy, gets his moment to shine halfway through the runtime when Maddie forces him to play the piano at a restaurant. The boy impresses everybody with a stunning cover of “Maneater” by Hall and Oates. The song is beautifully directed. Percy is barely audible in the first few seconds as he nervously starts to sing, but he slowly gains more confidence, and his initial anxiousness vanishes beneath a more satisfied smile. Meanwhile, Maddie watches on, a myriad of emotions running through her mind as the lyrics strike a chord with her. It’s a striking tender few minutes in an otherwise non-sensical comedy. While the original is an upbeat dance-pop number, Percy’s version of “Maneater” is a moodier ballad tribute to the hit song, and stands out from the rest of the film’s soundtrack.
Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick are amusing in their small cameos as Percy’s helicopter parents, Allison and Laird. The film takes a witty dig at the unhealthy involvement of many modern parents in their children’s lives and how technology has made it disturbingly easier for people to be manipulative and controlling. “No Hard Feelings” makes you wonder if Percy’s inability to make friends and have a social life is a result of his own elusiveness, or is it a result of his overprotective, wealthy parents who do not give him the space to grow into his own person. Thanks to the unconventional plot, Jennifer Lawrence and Andrew Barth Feldman make an odd yet entertaining pair.
Even though “No Hard Feelings” doesn’t have many “laugh out loud” kind of moments, it is evenly paced, with scenes that are just funny enough to not make you lose complete interest. The climactic twist is predictable, but the final few minutes of “No Hard Feelings” steer clear of being cheesy or clichéd and provide viewers with a sweet, believable ending to Maddie and Percy’s otherwise ludicrous relationship.
Rating: 7 on 10. You can stream “the film”No Hard Feelings” on Netflix or rent it on Prime Video.
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