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no hard feelings, Gene Stupnitsky’s funny summer comedy opens with a tow truck and a desperate woman.
The morning after a one-night stand with an Italian stranger, Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes up to find her car impounded by the county. Hard times have fallen for the Montauk local, who supplements her bartending income by driving for Uber. She owes thousands in property taxes, and it doesn’t help that her ex, Gary (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who ghosted her after three months of dating, is the one who impounded her vehicle. Her bitterness at their lack of closure means she definitely won’t be doing her a favor.
Without hard feelings
Packed full of charm and laughter.
Release date: Friday June 23rd
Launch: Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Barth Feldman, Laura Benanti, Natalie Morales, Hasan Minhaj, Matthew Broderick
Director: Gene Stupnitsky
Screenwriters: Gene Stupnitsky, John Phillips
Rated R, 1 hour 43 minutes
It is under these dire circumstances that Maddie finds a strange advertisement on Craigslist. A wealthy couple (played by Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick), desperate for confidence in their son (Andrew Barth Feldman) before college, are looking for someone to casually date. Love, lust, and sexual experimentation will melt their anxious teenager and catapult him into adulthood, they hope. Oh, and they’ll give the old family Buick to whoever does the job.
This premise instigates action in Without hard feelings. The film, directed and co-written by Stupnitsky (Good guys), is modeled after the raunchy comedies of the early aughts — the kind of mid-budget studio films that nowadays end up buried in the algorithmic madness of a streaming service. This breezy, refreshingly low-key comedy will have you constantly giggling, if not necessarily rolling on the floor with laughter. But it also has a surprising amount of heart.
Lawrence is a big part of the reason Without hard feelings jobs. She’s sharp and sassy as the hyper-independent, emotionally avoidant lover with a short fuse. It’s fun to see the actress embrace her sillier register, but her dramatic skills are also an asset, lending depth to a character that could be one-note and making it easier to believe the more emotional turns the film will take next .
After answering the Craigslist ad, Maddie (still without a car) goes to the Beckers’ house. The entire sequence, from Maddie struggling to skate up the hill on her to the interview with her parents, explodes with wry, goofy humor that might remind viewers that Stupnitsky honed his writing skills in The office.
Maddie manages to convince Allison (Benanti) and Laird (Broderick) that although she is older than the required age (early to 20), she is the right person to help their son Percy (Feldman) come out of his shell. While these things go, Maddie must keep the exchange with her parents a secret and arrange a nice meeting with Percy. Their first meeting is, fittingly, at the animal shelter where Percy works during the summer. It’s not a venue like Maddie; she’s a “summer person,” a phrase Maddie uses disparagingly to refer to vacationers who raise the cost of living.
Maddie steels herself and Percy, who prefers to be alone, rejects her initial advances. Feldman’s chronically uncomfortable teenager plays well against Lawrence’s energizing bunny adult. The two represent a generational divide between Gen Z and older millennials, a contrast that provides substance to many of the film’s jokes. Maddie doesn’t understand why Percy doesn’t drink or drive, or why he isn’t constantly horny. “What’s wrong with your generation?” the reactions become a kind of refrain, which starts to tire at the end of the film. Percy, on the other hand, finds himself both attracted to and frightened by Maddie, who, on more than one occasion, suggests that he embody the Hall & Oates song “Maneater”.
There is more to each of these characters than meets the eye. Stupnitsky reduces the intensity of the first act – with its sharp comedic timing and energetic slapstick – to make way for more mellow moments with Maddie and Percy. In a series of dates, the two realize they have more in common than they initially thought. Maddie shares the reasons why she never left Montauk with Percy, while Percy becomes more confident, finding small moments to act on her more audacious impulses than his.
In his adherence to a particular kind of sentimentality, Without hard feelings it doesn’t lean fully into the vulgarity some might expect from its trailer or initial buzz. It also doesn’t become a Licorice Pizza kind of story: Maddie is clear about her ultimate goal and Percy’s awkwardness can’t be overcome so easily. From its earliest moments, the film suggests that the bond between these two lonely souls rests on the strength of their friendship. The film’s shift into a more emotional gear isn’t seamless – the narrative takes a few awkward turns to keep moving – but it’s ultimately captivating.