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Review: No Hard Feelings (2023)

No Hard Feelings (2023)

Directed by: Gene Stupnitsky

Premise: A woman (Jennifer Lawrence) struggling to pay her bills agrees to date a socially withdrawn high school senior (Andrew Barth Feldman) in exchange for a new car.

What Works: No Hard Feelings establishes itself as a coarse sex comedy. The premise is not far departed from the conceit of a porn film but No Hard Feelings’ initial bawdiness gives way to a sweetness reminiscent of Judd Apatow’s better movies. This isn’t so much a movie about sex as it is about relationships and in its own way the film is conservative in the way it critiques sexuality emancipated from love or any other commitments. Jennifer Lawrence is the star of No Hard Feelings but Andrew Barth Feldman really shines in this film. Feldman is cast as a young man who has been helicopter parented into a perpetual state of anxiety and he must gradually come out of his social isolation. The two characters are an odd couple but Feldman is given much of the best material. That’s true of the comedy but also the drama. No Hard Feelings is at its best is in the quieter moments. This young man has his first love affair and Feldman’s performance captures the excitement and enthusiasm and rawness of young love.

What Doesn’t: The advertising materials for No Hard Feelings emphasize the outrageous sex comedy angle but this element is actually the weakest part of the film. There is some funny dialogue but the gags are at best mildly amusing and most of the best bits were seen in the trailer. The love story of No Hard Feelings is much better but the clashing tones do not fit together. The picture jerks between sweetness and lewdness in a way that creates emotional whiplash and doesn’t feel like a coherent whole. The love story is also predicable. The plot works through the white lie scenario and it’s obvious where all of this is going. Lawrence’s character figures she can get in and out of this arrangement quickly with a minimum of commitment but as it drags out the two of them develop feelings for one another which of course leads to a crisis when the truth is revealed. No Hard Feelings contains a bunch of interesting but half-conceived ideas. Lawrence’s character is a local who can no longer afford her house due to the influx of wealthy new residents and she essentially prostitutes herself to pay her real estate taxes. The film lightly acknowledges the relationship between economic inequality and sex work—which could be provocative in the era of OnlyFans—but  mostly keeps the matter at a distance. These interesting and provocative ideas populate the background but they aren’t dramatized in a meaningful way.

Bottom Line: No Hard Feelings mixes comedy and romance to mixed effect. It’s an uneven film with some very good bits offset by mediocre comic set pieces and cliché plot twists.

Episode: #956 (July 9, 2023)