After a series of raunchy red-band trailers promised a sex-comedy romp in No Hard Feelings, the actual film itself can be called a case of false advertising. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Andrew Barth Feldman as a mismatched couple, No Hard Feelings is more of a friend-com with swearing than an actual sex comedy. Indeed, in a cinematic landscape in which Asteroid City features full-frontal nudity and a PG-13 rating, No Hard Feelings’ R rating feels especially unearned. It is essentially a wanna-be sweet coming-of-age comedy that covers both actual adolescence and delayed adolescence, buoyed by a pair of genuinely charming performances.


Lawrence stars as Maddie, a thirty-something woman working a series of dead-end jobs, trying to hang onto her family’s house in Montauk, part of the Hamptons summer colonies on Long Island. When her car is repossessed, she becomes desperate, cut off from her Uber earnings. Drowning in property taxes, she takes an unconventional gig as, essentially, a sex worker for a couple of rich parents trying to punch their awkward son’s V-card before he goes to Princeton. 

It’s American Pie by way of Risky Business, though director Gene Stupnitsky, who co-wrote the script with John Phillips, has very little to say about the class politics and socio-economic reality of a Hamptons-born native losing her multi-generational family home as the invasion of nouveau riche has turned a once-working class fishing town into an unaffordable nightmare for normal people. Similarly, the film has little to say about helicopter parents, sex, or sex work. Like The House before it, No Hard Feelings feels neutered by notes, in this case, there is a palpable fear of the thirteen year age gap between Maddie and the nervous nineteen-year-old she’s hired to seduce, Percy (Feldman). 


Still, it’s not a total loss. Lawrence and Feldman have solid, friendly chemistry, and the two find a nice rhythm as a couple who are never on the same page but enjoy each other’s company, nonetheless. Lawrence is the rare actor who is as good at comedy as she is drama, and Maddie’s rough edges suit Lawrence’s brashness well. She goes all-in on a number of physical gags, including a naked fight scene, which allows her to break out of her Serious Drama shell leftover from the 2010s, and show her potential to do a comedy with some real teeth down the line. Feldman, similarly, finds a sharp darkness around the edges of the perpetually nervous Percy that makes him more than just a caricature of Gen Z anxiety. 

But there is something gross at the heart of No Hard Feelings that is hard to ignore. It would be one thing if it was just a good premise torpedoed by weak execution, like The House, but No Hard Feelings has some hard feelings about Maddie and her singledom. Maddie’s problem is that she can’t afford to keep her family home since insanely wealthy summer residents, like Percy’s parents (played by Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti), have driven up property values in Montauk. But Stupnitsky and co-writer Phillips are instead super hung up on how Maddie is a big ole slut who needs to settle down already in order to find happiness. 


We only meet two of Maddie’s exes on screen, and she is just thirty-two, hardly old, so why the film is so dead set on scolding her at every turn for her wild ways is beyond me. Don’t you want the protagonist of your supposed sex comedy to be, you know, sexy? And Lawrence is! She’s a natural bombshell who has an old-school combination of timing, physical chops, and classic beauty that made stars out of the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Regina Hall, and Sandra Bullock before her. And Maddie is, like many Millennials, adrift in a world unfriendly to her existence. She’s burdened by debt, unable to maintain, let alone succeed, the standard of living of her parents, and without real career prospects. But there is no sympathy for how the American Dream evaporated before Millennials could even reach for it, instead, Natalie Morales pops in as Maddie’s pregnant friend to scold her for not settling down already.


In fits and starts, No Hard Feelings is a surprisingly sweet hangout comedy about two unlikely friends helping each other through critical stages of growing up. Jennifer Lawrence gives an all-out performance that deserves better material, and Andrew Barth Feldman, better known as a theater actor, is a pleasant surprise as Percy. They make a good screen couple, in a smarter, sharper movie, they could have done a lot with a premise centered on expectations and disappointment as part of growing up. Here, though, they’re treading water in a mediocre studio comedy with no teeth and weird opinions on female sexuality, and no opinion on the disappearing middle class. If it isn’t going to deliver on the raunch, No Hard Feelings could at least deliver on quality, and it does not.

This review was published during the WGA strike of 2023. The work being reviewed would not exist without the labor of writers. No Hard Feelings is now playing exclusively in theaters.


Attached: Jennifer out to dinner on June 22 and running errands on June 21 in NYC.