Jennifer Lawrence proves to be a strong comic actor in No Hard Feelings
Jennifer Lawrence has done a variety of films in her career, including Oscar-quality dramas, action blockbusters, and superhero movies. But, even though she’s been in a few movies with comedic aspects, she’s never attempted to do a full-on comedy, a box she can now check off with the semi-outrageous film, No Hard Feelings.
Maddie Barker (Lawrence) is woman in her early 30s living in Montauk, New York, who’s still trying to figure out her life. She’s inherited a home from her now-deceased mother, but can’t afford the rising insurance costs with her jobs as an Uber driver/bartender. After her car is repossessed, Maddie starts looking for any options to keep her head above water.
She seizes upon a Craigslist ad from Allison and Laird Becker (Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick), who are looking for a woman to get their Harvard-bound son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), to come out of his introverted shell. The arrangement – of which Percy is unaware - becomes a battle of wills, as Maddie uses questionable methods to push Percy out of his comfort zone, and Percy unable to fully trust that a woman like Maddie would be interested in him.
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky and written by Stupnitsky and John Phillips, the film walks right on the line between being heartfelt and over-the-top. The premise itself is somewhat questionable, but the filmmakers keep things on a relatively even keel throughout, balancing out chaotic scenes with ones where Maddie and Percy connect on meaningful levels.
While this approach works for the most part, there are occasions where the film could have stood to let loose a little more. Lawrence is game to do a lot of out-there stuff – including a nude fight scene – but there are multiple other times where the filmmakers cut the craziness short before it has time to make a full impact. A scene at a college party goes against expectations in an interesting way; the film could have used more of that.
The film hinges on the bond between Maddie and Percy, and fortunately the actors deliver in this respect. Though their characters are close to polar opposites, Lawrence and Feldman feed off each other’s energy well. Lawrence plays Maddie as manic but never unhinged, while Feldman does a credible job of taking Percy from shut-in to confident. Benanti and Broderick don’t have much to do, but Natalie Morales and Scott MacArthur are fun in small roles as Maddie’s friends.
Lawrence has proven throughout her career that she can adapt her performances to all sorts of different stories, and she does so again in No Hard Feelings. While not a superior comedy, it has enough going for it to make audiences want to see Lawrence do more films like it in the future.
No Hard Feelings opens in theaters on June 23.