Plot: What’s it about?
I can remember first seeing the trailer for No Hard Feelings a few months ago and having the highest of hopes. The premise seemed fun, Jennifer Lawrence is likeable, and it seemed to promise an R-rated good comedy. It is also the sort of film that I didn’t want to see advertised too heavily as often the case with comedies, I feared the trailers would give away all the funny bits. Thankfully, the film has a lot of good laughs and amusing bits, but I feel the film has been heavily mis-marketed. It is much more serious and has more dramatic moments than comedic. That isn’t to say it’s not a fun and enjoyable film (it is), but it’s not at all the laugh riot I would’ve expected based off the advertising.
With the gloomy fear of losing her late mother’s house, Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) isn’t in the best place. Her car was recently repossessed, and she relied on those funds to help keep the house in her name. She stumbles upon an ad that promises a free car if one can bring a shy introverted boy out of his shell before he’s off to college in the fall. She meets with the parents, Laird (Matthew Broderick) and Allison (Laura Benanti) to discuss their song, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman). Percy isn’t to find out about this plan, and Maddie jumps at the opportunity to “date” their son. They first meet at the animal shelter where he works, with Maddie pretending to be interested in adopting a dog. She offers him a ride home, but he fears she is going to kidnap him and sprays mace in her eyes. She clears the air, and they agree to go on a date. On their first date, Maddie takes Percy to the beach where she urges him to go skinny dipping with him. It’s clear early on that Maddie has her work cut out for her as Percy seems to be stuck in his shell and wants to get to know her rather than skipping straight to sex. All this stuff works, and it works well. But the film seems to turn too serious too soon. The cast is perfect here. Lawrence fills her role perfectly as she can try to win over Percy with conviction, and Feldman does a good job of conveying that awkwardness that we would expect. Scott MacArthur and Natalie Morales also turn in good work in supporting roles here as Maddie’s friends. We then see the progress of the relationship between Maddie and Percy, though fabricated, they share some nice scenes together. The trailers have shown most of the best gags, but there are amusing bits sprinkled throughout. The pace is kept brisk as well which was nice.
By the very nature of this plot, we know what to expect. We’re all aware of how films work, and this means that Percy will eventually learn of the plan. Don’t take that as a spoiler, but one thing the film does well is how it handles this discovery. Percy doesn’t overact the way a lesser film might’ve. Still, I wish it went more for the comedic route that the trailers promised, at least for longer. I knew that things might turn more serious, but I just thought the film might hold off on that stuff more than it did. It gives good attention to the characters and their histories, but it isn’t nearly the resurgence of the R-Rated comedy that I hoped it would be. I did enjoy how it touches on the youth today as kids at a party would much rather livestream and play on their phones than engage in conversation (or other things) with one another. Lawrence also has a somewhat awkward nude scene where she fights with a few kids on the beach who threaten to steal their clothes. I still wish the film took a few more risks and committed itself to being more of a comedy than somewhere in between. With the right expectations, however, there is still some enjoyment to be had.
Video: How’s it look?
Comedies are, by and large, very colorful films (pardon the pun). This is no exception. Sony’s Blu-ray shows off anything and everything that’s Los Angeles with plenty of sweeping visuals, though it’s a site we’ve all seen in countless other films. Heck, just watch an episode of Sex and the City and you’ll get it. That said, the 1.85:1 AVC HD image looks nearly perfect. Detail is tack sharp, which is nice when we see Jennifer Lawrence in a skin tight dress. Colors are bold and bright and contrast remains strong and consistent. As we might expect – it’s a good-looking film.
Audio: How’s it sound?
There’s not a lot to write home about when it comes to the included DTS HD Master Audio mix. Yes, it’s got some spots that made me stand up and take notice (the crowd scenes, for example) but by and large, this is a by-the-book mix that checks all the boxes. Vocals are sharp and thoughtfully articulated, surrounds are used sparingly and the front stage handles the rest. It’s nothing too terribly memorable, but gets the job done.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Outtakes & Bloopers – Pretty self-explanatory.
- A Motley Crew: Meet the Characters – The obligatory “meet the cast” as they talk about their roles, what attracted them to the project and so forth. Nothing mind-blowing here.
- A Little Wrong: Making No Hard Feelings – Essentially the same as the above, with praise lauded upon director Gene Stupnitsky.
The Bottom Line
I wonder if many people who see this film will feel misled. I was fully expecting a laugh filled R-Rated comedy that would be best seen with a large audience. Unfortunately, the trailers gave away some of the best gags, but the film turns all too serious too quickly. Even if it wanted to get to the serious stuff, I just wish it held off longer than it did. Adjust expectations accordingly and I still believe it to be worth seeing. The cast helps elevate the material and the pace is brisk enough to not have us feeling too distracted. It isn’t the film I was expecting, but enough of it works to earn a modest recommendation.