Jennifer Lawrence shines in “No Hard Feelings,” a raunchy comedy with a deeper message.
In most good ways, “No Hard Feelings” is the kind of hard-to-describe movie that doesn’t need a big advertising effort. Part French sex comedy and part “American Pie”-style coming-of-age story, this raunchy vehicle for Jennifer Lawrence also has darker and deeper parts that make it better than its “Pretty. Awkward.” ads.
Lawrence’s Maddie is pretty, but she’s also in a bad situation. She could lose her house and her car is about to be taken away, which is especially bad for a part-time Uber driver. She thinks that the fact that rich people spend their summers in the beach town of Montauk, where she lives, is making it harder for her and other poor people to get by.
A wealthy couple, played by Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti, puts out an ad for someone to date their 19-year-old son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman, in a big step up for the “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” co-star), and “bring him out of his shell” before he goes to Princeton.
Maddie is a little older than what they had in mind for a possible seductress, but she manages to convince them that women Percy’s age are stupid and that she really, really needs the car they’re offering. It was a good idea to make Lawrence’s age a running joke.
Gene Stupnitsky directed and co-wrote the movie with fellow “Office” veteran John Phillips. What happens next could have been a crude R-rated comedy with a lot of over-the-top situations, and there are a few of those. But “No Hard Feelings” (which has a generic title that also shows the studio didn’t really get what they had here) also has a sad side when it looks at the strange friendship that grows between these two broken characters.
“Parents” who want him to grow up but make it hard for him to do so. It’s like the mental paralysis in “The Graduate,” but it’s not even close to that good.
Maddie’s life is made up of one-night stands and feeling like she’s not good enough because of her class. She grew up with her nose pressed against the glass watching the rich people on the other side.
Feldman looks young, which makes him seem even more fragile, and the part of Maddie’s job that involves being a mercenary seems harder. To Lawrence’s credit (she’s also a producer), she dives right into that part of the movie. There’s a nighttime scene where she tries to get a reluctant, rule-following boy into the water while she’s naked. This shows how the movie is both funny and smart (Percy points out the similarities to “Jaws”) while also showing how hostile she is.
The scene shows how the movie aims higher than you might think, which, given the current state of the movie business, makes “No Hard Feelings” hard for a studio’s marketing team to sell. But you have to give Lawrence credit for creating an interesting figure in a movie that will surprise people who see it, whether that’s in a theater or, more likely, after it makes its way to pay TV and streaming services.