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No Hard Feelings
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Gene Stupnitsky
scr John Phillips, Gene Stupnitsky
prd Justine Polsky, Jennifer Lawrence, Naomi Odenkirk, Marc Provissiero, Alex Saks
with Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Barth Feldman, Matthew Broderick, Laura Benanti, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Natalie Morales, Scott MacArthur, Kyle Mooney, Hasan Minhaj, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Jordan Mendoza, Alysia Joy Powell
release US/UK 23.Jun.23
23/US Columbia 1h43
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A refreshing blast of raucous, grown-up comedy infuses what is actually a sweet coming-of-age journey for an oddball couple. Director-cowriter Gene Stupnitsky keeps the plot simple as it spirals through hilarious scenes, heading exactly where we expect. And the cast has a lot of fun with sparky roles that are tinged with deeper personal flaws. This allows us to laugh at them even as we identify with them.
Maddie (Lawrence) has lived in Montauk, Long Island, her whole life, but her aversion to responsibilities makes it difficult to pay taxes on the house her late mother left her. Needing a car, she accepts a job from Laird and Allison (Broderick and Benanti) to coax their shy 19-year-old son Percy (Feldman) out of his shell before he goes to Princeton. Of course, this doesn't go smoothly. But each of them is surprised to find a needed challenge as a friendship begins to blossom. The problem is that Percy sees this as a romance.
Jokes range from astute character-based wit to broadly absurd nuttiness, as the script focuses on ruts Maddie and Percy are stuck in. Maddie has managed to avoid becoming a serious adult, while Percy has been so protected by his parents that he is terrified of everything. A scene at a wild house party reveals the huge gulf between their generations. But it's the way these two connect with each other that draws the viewer in. Especially as they discover ways to break free.
Lawrence dives fully into the physical comedy, eliciting laughs with both her up-for-it abandon and her skilful timing. Maddie is a mess, blustering through life oblivious to what's important. And the script thankfully leaves some of her loose threads dangling. Feldman keeps up with her, delivering expertly gauged reactions while allowing Percy's personality to evolve as he emerges from his protective shell. They make such a terrific pair that we begin to root for the romance, even if it's all wrong.
Basically the movie trades on its transgressive excesses, and there's plenty to keep gross-out fans amused. Yet while some of the jokes are borderline offensive, it never quite tips over the edge. There's always the sense that Stupnitsky is perhaps holding back just a bit from what he initially had in mind. That might have made this a much ruder, more consistently hilarious comedy. But this film's heart helps the humour connect strongly enough to leave us with a smile.
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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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