Manuel São Bento
MORE SPOILER-FREE MINI-REVIEWS @ https://www.msbreviews.com/movie-reviews/mini-reviews-2023-edition No Hard Feelings doesn't avoid the genre's formulas, and it could have taken better advantage of its Rated-R rating, but it’s surprisingly much more compelling than expected. Jennifer Lawrence and Andrew Barth Feldman share palpable chemistry in a raunchy, accurate comedy about letting go of the past and coming out of our shell. It truly flew by. Really enjoyed it! Rating: B
OK, so the underlying premiss here is pretty daft. The "Becker" parents - Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti are concerned that their teenage son "Percy" (Andrew Barth Feldman) is just a little bit shy, and so they are seeking a willing gal to help get him out of his bedroom. Meantime, "Maddie" (Jennifer Lawrence) is struggling to make ends meet as an Uber driver with only a pair of roller-skates to her name. She spots their ad, they meet and next thing she is chatting to the young man who volunteers at an animal sanctuary. He thinks she's weird, she thinks he's weird - but she needs a car, and that's her prize if she can get him laid! That's what works about this film: right from the double entendres of the title, it's a sex comedy that doesn't actually shy away from nudity (albeit sparing) and from the fact that the parental goal here involves their son and cherries - and not those in bowl. Lawrence is on good form and she brings out the best in Feldman who is also quite effective as the scared-of-his-own shadow young man who would rather seek the comfort of four legged friends than people. It moves along quickly, the writing is enjoyably earthy at times, there are some fun, lightly comedic scenes and though no, there isn't really a lot of jeopardy to the plot, it's surprisingly easy to watch. It also can't but elicit our own memories of being a cack-handed teenager with raging hormones that we didn't understand nor know how to control. A fun soundtrack and I found it flew by. Television will be fine, though, no need to shall out for a ticket.
Louisa Moore - Screen Zealots
There’s a sweet life lesson at the heart of “No Hard Feelings,” the supposed “raunchy comedy” from co-writer and director Gene Stupnitsky. What a shame that it’s buried under a heap of dreadfully unfunny attempts at humor, dumb pratfalls,and tired sex jokes that fall flat one hundred percent of the time. No bones about it: this is not just a really terrible comedy, it’s an awful movie all around. Bartender Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) just watched her car get towed from the driveway, and needs wheels, fast. While browsing the want ads, she stumbles upon an intriguing job listing: wealthy helicopter parents (Laura Benanti, Matthew Broderick) are searching for someone to “date” their introverted 19-year-old son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), before he leaves for college. The pay for sleeping with their son? A used Buick. Maddie decides to take the job but in the process, she gets far more than she bargains for. It’s a decent premise for a movie, but Lawrence is horribly miscast in the role. She’s too old to play the part of Maddie, which makes her relationship with a teenager feel a little icky. Lawrence is also called on to do a lot of comedy work and as talented as she is, she simply lacks the knack for comedic timing (she’s especially awful at physical comedy). It’s also a problematic message to send to young men: if you haven’t slept with a woman before venturing away from home and off into adulthood, then you aren’t much of a “man.” Just think if the roles were reversed here, and it was a 32 year old man trying to force himself on a 19 year old woman so she could get “experience” before heading to college. The standard needs to be the same regardless of the sex of the main characters. The majority of the story consists of ridiculous situations where Maddie is aggressively trying to seduce Percy, none of them funny and all of them growing old, quickly. Stupnitsky (and co-writer John Phillips) go for the lowest hanging fruit every time, and the only laughter I could muster while watching this dreck came from forced chuckles. And that’s the major problem with the movie: everyone is trying so hard to turn it into a wacky, racy comedy that they miss the actual heart of the story. The relationship between Maddie and Percy is somewhat charming, and the way they grow individually while together is actually heartwarming. All of that is overshadowed by the lame attempts to make it a raunchy, sexy, adult comedy. In struggling to be both, it succeeds at neither. “No Hard Feelings” is best when it stops trying to be something it’s not.
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