Plot: “On the brink of losing her home, Maddie finds an intriguing job listing: helicopter parents looking for someone to bring their introverted 19-year-old son out of his shell before college. She has one summer to make him a man or die trying.”
Review: Jennifer Lawrence has entered a new phase of her career. With enough box office success, she can pick projects that matter most to her. No Hard Feelings is evidence of this new reality. It is a choice that really should surprise no one who has been paying attention.
Lawerence is the perfect late night talk show guest. She has great comedic timing and does not mind sharing an embarrassing tale that puts her at the center of the joke. In this film, it is those skills that elevate a crude script dripping with dry humor from beginning to end.
Within fifteen minutes of the movie’s opening credits, you will figure out where this film is heading. It suffers from a predictable storyline. Lawrence stars as Maddie. When we first meet her, life is unraveling and spiraling out of control. Her car is being repossessed. Without a car, she cannot drive rideshare and take advantage of the busy summer months in Montauk, New York. She is behind on her property taxes and is inching closer to losing her home (a home that once belonged to her mother).
Maddie needs cash and needs it fast. A car is the centerpiece of her plan to raise money for back taxes to keep the home she dearly loves. Scrolling through Craigslist looking for a cheap car, she runs across an ad placed by wealthy parents. The ad proposes the exchange of a free Buick Regal for a woman who agrees to date their isolated son before he heads off to Princeton in the fall. Without hesitating, she fully jumps at the opportunity. It is this ridiculous scenario that serves as the comedic gold that feeds the rest of the story.
Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) is a bashful loner with lots of online friends, but few in the real world. Bullied by kids at school, he spends lots of time volunteering at a local animal shelter, playing piano, and gets lost in the world of video games. When he first meets Maddie, he is completely unaware of his parents’ proposition. Awkward and shy, he totally misses her advances. This gives rise to a series of roadblocks that serve as threats to Maddie’s plan. It is these obstacles that allow Lawrence an opportunity to shine and flex her comedic strength.
The predictability of this film rears its head in two ways. We know from the beginning that Percy will fall head over heels in love and that the plan will be discovered. The consequences make this film worthwhile. Lucky for us, the script is hilarious and Lawrence gives a brave and fresh performance. Taken together, this film overcomes any challenges associated with predictability.
In the end, this film is a cautionary tale about the dangers of over-involved parents who rush to protect their children. It possesses a lot of humor and heart. It also gives us a type of role I would like to see Jennifer Lawrence pursue more often.
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