Raunchy summer comedy works better than it should


Director and co-writer Gene Stupnitsky (“The Office,” “Bad Teacher,” “Good Boys”) shows off his quick wit and gift for awkward timing in “No Hard Feelings,” an edgy coming-of-age story despite a 13-year age difference between the main characters.

Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) is a local in the beautiful surfside community of Montauk, N.Y. She works as a bartender and Uber driver while chipping away at the thousands of dollars she owes in escalating property taxes. When her car is totaled, she risks losing her home and becomes desperate for a solution.

Enter wealthy helicopter parents (Matthew Broadrick and Laura Benanti) in need of their own solution to a hopeless situation. To prepare their introverted 19-year-old son for college life, they seek out a female who will casually date him, forcing him from his shell.

In a last-ditch effort to save her childhood home, Maddie accepts their offer to advance Percy’s development for the promised payout: A Buick Regal. She creates a sexpot image and secretly plans to “deflower” the Princeton-bound recluse.

The movie treads a risky storyline on the surface but delivers harmless scenarios where there’s no real romance between the characters. Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) is smarter than his parents give him credit for. He doesn’t fall for Maddie’s bombshell persona, which is more bark than bite, and has no real interest in losing his virginity. Yet the experiment boosts his confidence, leading to a confrontation with his parents and a significant change in his life choices.

Lawrence delivers a sharp and sassy performance, saving her seemingly one-dimensional character and affirming herself as a comedy actress. The Oscar-winner administers a buck-naked beat-down in one of the film’s most memorable scenes.

Newcomer Feldman charms your pants off, holding his own against Lawrence, matching her comedic timing with snappy responses and amusing reactions as an awkward introvert who evolves under the pressure of Maddie’s schemes.

The two main characters reflect the disconnection between Gen Z and millennials, a contrast responsible for much of the film’s banter. The transitions from raunchy scenes into emotional moments are bumpy, and the plot takes some leaps to move the story forward. Yet, it delivers consistent laughs and keeps the audience guessing where it’s going.

“No Hard Feelings” is a semi-rom-com that works better than it should, shining a little tenderness into the prickly business of putting out.