“No Hard Feelings” … Oh, the humanity.
After reading the synopsis of No Hard Feelings I immediately wondered why an established and renowned actor like Jennifer Lawrence would choose to star in a film with all the hallmarks of a soiled diaper. It’s an understatement to say this kind of film is beneath Lawrence at this point in her career. Not only has she seen massive popularity and success from the X…Men and Hunger Games franchises, but she has so many accolades that her accolades have their own wiki page. No Hard Feelings is the type of movie that aspiring actors take to get their foot in the door. Or the type of movie Nicholas Cage takes to pay off massive debts. Lawrence is neither of those things.
The synopsis of No Hard Feelings is a that a mom and dad offers to pay a woman a car to date their son before he goes off to college at Princeton. It’s the plot of Can’t Buy Me Love, but it had been rotting in the sun for weeks. Or She’s All That. Or Easy A. Or 10 Things I Hate About You. I’m sure you can name more movies featuring fake dating. What I can’t name is another movie where parents are the ones funding the fake dating; definitely not one where the payment is a used Buick Regal.
Maddie Barker (Lawrence) is a thirty…two…year…old bartender/Uber driver living in her deceased mother’s house in Montauk. She wakes up one morning to find her car being towed, seized by the county for failing to pay her property taxes. Desperate for a car … which she needs to make money as a driver during the busy summer season … she responds to an ad offering a car to date nineteen…year…old Percy Becker (Andrew Barth Feldman). And by date, Percy’s parents Laird and Allison (Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti, respectively) make clear they mean have sex with. That’s right folks … they’ll supply Maddie with a ride after she gives their son a ride. And Maddie really, really needs that ride. The first one…not the second one.
The awkwardness of the conversation between Maddie and Percy’s parents is indicative of the entire film. Both are one long cringe occasionally interrupted by something mildly resembling comedy. The conversation scene has a moment where the parents ask Maddie how old she really is (the ad asked for early twenties) and Maddie convincing them she’s a better choice because younger women are idiots. Hahaha…wait … didn’t we just watch Maddie attempt to climb a staircase while wearing rollerblades rather than simply take them off and walk up the stairs? The same Maddie we watched simultaneously berate and attempt to seduce the repo man in an effort to keep her car? Are we idiots for not walking out of the theater at this point?
That initial conversation is also how we learn about Percy. According to his parents, Percy is a shy, friendless shut…in only interested in playing video games. Percy has zero experience with girls, drinking, parties, or sex, but does browse an extensive amount of online porn. The obvious play for Maddie is to act as the girl…next…door so as not to frighten the nervous little rabbit that is Percy. But, as I pointed out, Maddie’s an idiot.
Because she needs the car as soon as possible, Maddie puts on her slinkiest dress, goes to the animal shelter where Percy volunteers at, and comes on to Percy so hard that it’s a wonder every dog in the building didn’t try to hump her legs. Percy is understandably confused, but Maddie has only just begun. She then forces Percy to accept a ride home from her (she borrowed her friends’ work van which couldn’t possibly be used as an Uber vehicle), only to be maced by Percy after he comes to the conclusion she is kidnapping him. The scene ends with Percy literally hosing Maddie down in her front yard, then accepting a date with her for the following day. Are you laughing yet? No? Don’t walk but run away from this movie if you are still there.
The rest of the film plays out like that scene, following the standard rom…com formula, but without the rom or the com. Following the, um, meet…cute, there are a couple more really awkward scenes where Maddie is using every euphemism she can think of to entice Percy to have sex, even literally stripping off her clothes in front of him (in a skinny…dipping scene). Then there are misunderstandings and setbacks, a montage of the two of them doing activities together, the big reveal of the secret agreement, the separation, and finally the reconciliation. None of these things are earned or developed. Instead, the film lurches from one formula step to the next until it finally collapses on you in a heap of unsatisfaction.
To put it gently, screenwriters John Phillips and Gene Stupnitsky (also directing) wrote an idiotic screenplay. The movie is nothing but a series of increasingly inexplicable events, with Percy and Maddie frequently becoming fed up with each other only to immediately change their minds moments later. It’s quite jarring and off…putting, especially because Maddie and Percy aren’t particularly likeable humans. At no point do we ever root for the two of them to get together, short term or long term. And I can’t stress enough how cringeworthy and unfunny most of scenes are. It doesn’t help that bits of social commentary are sprinkled throughout the movie but are never examined or tied into the plot or events to mean anything.
As much as I like Jennifer Lawrence, this is easily her worst film. I don’t blame her, or Feldman for that matter, for this turd of a film. They both turn in decent performances and are clearly trying to carry a movie that doesn’t deserve them. The entire movie comes off like something that people thought sounded funny on paper, but who don’t have senses of humor. Or worse, that it sounded romantic on paper. Worst of all is my question still remains … why Jennifer, why?
Rating: Don’t be an idiot … ask for all your money back.