Friday, June 16, 2023

No Hard Feelings


Montauk-local Maddie Barker (Jennifer Lawrence) is about to lose her source of income as an Uber driver after her car is towed due to her unpaid property taxes. While she also bartends as a side hustle, what she really needs is a vehicle that she can use to pay off her dues. When she stumbles upon a Craigslist ad from helicopter parents Laird (Matthew Broderick) and Allison (Laura Benanti) who are offering an old Buick in exchange for “getting their son out of his shell” prior to going to college, she jumps at the opportunity despite its strange premise. Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) is an awkward and shy geek who keeps to himself and volunteers at the local dog shelter during his free time. Getting to know each other, the line between the transactional and the platonic begins to blur. Will both of them keep their end of the bargain?

Perhaps what totally came out of left field was JLaw’s full frontal. She did not use a body double for this; that was really her. While nothing out of the ordinary in European cinema, nudity is mostly used as a gimmick in Hollywood for actors who are not household names yet, so it is kind of weird for an A-Lister to do this despite it not really being JLaw’s first time because she already did so in Red Sparrow. The fun thing is that the whole sequence is not thrown in there to titillate, but rather utilized entirely for shock value and made the scene even more hilarious in a rather fvcked up way.

Or maybe this is just JLaw’s way of doing catch-up. After all, how old was she when she won her Oscar? 22. She was just 19 when she was first nominated two years prior. After that she then helmed a wildly popular franchise, and then hopped on another one doing both simultaneously. Remember those pundits saying that her career peaked early? Well, where is the lie? Reading and watching her promotional interviews for this film, it looks like this is an avenue for liberation for her, and we’re glad that she now has the say about the direction her career is taking.

As for Feldman, this is not a bad film debut, even though this role could have been played by any prepubescent kid. There is nothing much he can do with the role given the limitations of the character. He is given an opportunity to display his vocal chops, though. If you are not familiar, he had his run as Evan Hansen on Broadway, so the boy can sing. Maybe that is the extra that he brings to the role. Having mentioned Broadway, Broderick and Benanti are Broadway vets as well, so it’s nice to see some theater-to-film crossovers here.

As for the subject matter, the storyline is quite weird and I do agree with observations that had gender been reversed, this would have sparked outrage. However, what I have noticed is that this is just similar to those coming-of-age comedies we were so used to in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. This subgenre has fallen out of favor because the world obviously puts more premium on political correctness as of late. In a way, unapologetic raunchy comedies are still a breath of fresh air once in a while, especially in a cinematic landscape currently dominated by comic book adaptations.

In the end, the film is funny alright, although it felt as though it was holding back a bit despite the R18 rating. The ending is predictable yet strangely heartwarming thanks to JLaw’s effective balancing of comedy and drama. If this movie proves anything, it is that she should do more comedies. She is effortlessly funny in real life and she already has a ton of awards. She should stop pigeonholing herself in awards circuit bait dramatic roles.

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