Review: No Hard Feelings

At once sharp-tongued and tenderhearted, No Hard Feelings strikes a wobbly balance between a raunchy mean streak and a real sweetness. It fully earns its R rating for “for sexual content, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.” In that litany, the MPA forgot to add comic violence, including an accidental throat punch (whoopsie), a kick to a woman’s naked crotch (ouch), and someone being set on fire (yikes). Yet for all its juvenile-yet-adults-only antics, No Hard Feelings lives up to its title, offering a surprisingly sentimental take on the unlikely relationship at its core. Writer-director Gene Stupnitsky (Good Boys) occasionally tips the tone too far in one direction or the other, but you might be too busy snort-laughing to notice.

The plot description for this coming-of-age sex comedy wouldn’t feel out-of-place amongst similar movies of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early ‘00s. Jennifer Lawrence stars as Maddie Barker, an Uber driver whose car has been repossessed due to a tax lien on her mother’s home in Montauk, Long Island. Without her car, she doesn’t have a way to make money during the busy summer tourist season — or pay off what she owes the IRS — leaving her desperate enough to answer a Craigslist ad (which is apparently still a thing). 

Overbearing parents Laird (Matthew Broderick) and Allison (Laura Benanti) are equally desperate, but not for money. They want their awkward 19-year-old son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), to come out of his shell before he leaves for Princeton in the fall, and they’re offering their old Buick Regal to a woman who can “date” their virgin son. With few other options, the commitment-phobic Maddie is game, but she soon finds that it won’t be as easy to bed Percy as she’d initially hoped. 

Like its two central characters, No Hard Feelings is a study in contrasts. Thanks to crackling chemistry between Lawrence and Feldman, genuine emotion courses through the movie, especially in a moving scene that features a lovely rendition of Hall & Oates “Maneater.” Their relationship shouldn’t work for a lot of reasons, but the actors make their connection feel real, even when it’s not as well supported by the script from Stupnitsky and Dirty Grandpa’s John Phillips. For all her sexual experience, Maddie has found it just as hard to grow up as Percy, giving them something to bond over as she can’t leave her hometown as much as he struggles to go outside his bedroom. Yet alongside all that tenderness, No Hard Feelings is foul-mouthed and filthy-minded, with a no-holds-barred approach to its often dark sense of humor. 


It also looks like a throwback to the sex comedies of another era while being fully grounded in 2023. You get the requisite T&A you’d expect, but No Hard Feelings offers the rare female nudity that exists for laughs, not titillation, which is usually reserved for men baring it all. Progress. There’s some fun Gen Z-vs-millennial humor, with jokes about 32-year-old Maddie’s advancing age guaranteeing a laugh every time. 

Most of the other gags land, too, largely thanks to a committed performance from Lawrence, who hasn’t done a pure comedy before this one. She displays the genius comic timing of classic Hollywood’s best actresses, but she’s deploying them in a film that definitely would not have adhered to the Hays Code. She’s also game for absolutely anything, with no sense of vanity or self-consciousness, producing a performance that’s just as revelatory as her breakthrough in Winter’s Bone or her Oscar-winning turn in Silver Linings Playbook. Feldman is a perfect match in his first big movie role, embodying an innocence that gives the film its heart. 

No Hard Feelings skims over details, with key moments seemingly cut out in editing. The third act feels rushed, and while a 100-minute movie is always appreciated, it shouldn’t be at the cost of cohesion. Stupnitsky often makes thoughtful choices in the visuals, but he is sometimes challenged by trying to balance the film’s raunchy approach with its sentimentality. 

Yet for all its problems, No Hard Feelings is a blast, the rare R-rated comedy with a theatrical release — and one that’s worth seeing in a theater if you can. There are some bits so foul that you might wonder if it’s okay to laugh, but watching it alongside others in the dark means that you won’t be the only terrible person cracking up at these very wrong, but very good jokes. 

B

“No Hard Feelings” is in theaters today.

Kimber Myers is a freelance film and TV critic for 'The Los Angeles Times' and other outlets. Her day job is at a tech company in their content studio, and she has also worked at several entertainment-focused startups, building media partnerships, developing content marketing strategies, and arguing for consistent use of the serial comma in push notification copy.

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