Directed by Gene Stupnitsky (“Good Boys,” co-creator of Freevee’s “Jury Duty“), the film centers on Maddie Barker (Lawrence), a Montauk-based Uber driver in her early thirties and on the verge of bankruptcy. When her car gets repossessed by her scorned tow trucker ex Gary (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), the house that her late mother left her is about to foreclose, and the income from her mundane part-time bartending job at a seafood-themed bar is far from enough to suffice. Resorting to Craigslist, Maddie answers an odd job listing that offers a Buick Regal as compensation. The position: date a wealthy couple’s (Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti) 19-year-old son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) for the summer, get him out of his shell, and pop his first cherry before heading to Princeton University in the fall; all while Percy is unsuspecting of his parents’ involvement. Initially thinking the gig would be a piece of cake, Percy’s clueless, awkward anxiety-riddled vibe gives Maddie a run for her money.
Since departing from Creative Artists Agency in 2018, Jennifer Lawrence’s recent return to the big screen boasts liberation from the intensity she poured into her past few roles. Her days of prestigious Oscar bait and being a franchise star who wore exhaustion in her performances are over. Today, with each new project, her agency and freedom are prominent. In “No Hard Feelings,” Lawrence proudly lets her freak flag fly.
Through the rambunctious, hasty cynical Maddie, Lawrence returns to her comedic roots from 2007’s “The Bill Engvall Show” and aces each facet of her performance here. She has the same skillful comedic ability as Anna Faris, Charlize Theron, Emma Stone, and Regina Hall, who flip their sensuality on a dime and dive into silly behavior. Lawrence has expert comic timing, especially with Maddie’s cynical clap backs and insults. Even for a skilled talent like Lawrence, she still impresses with her commitment to outrageous feats of physical comedy. Nothing she has done as Mystique in any of the “X-Men” films will measure up to Maddie going full pro-wrestler on a bunch of teenagers in her birthday suit.
“No Hard Feelings” boasts a breakthrough standout performance by Andrew Barth Feldman, who leaps from the Broadway stage to the silver screen as a delightful foil to Maddie. His Percy is like the anthesis of Gary from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza“; Instead of pursuing a woman of his elder, he does everything in his power to maintain abstinence at a slow and steady pace. He’s the perfect foil for Lawrence’s Maddie, garnering numerous laughs with his timid demeanor contrasting her outward confident spirit.