Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Jennifer Lawrence Goes Full Frontal All the Way In Middle Brow Comedy, “No Hard Feelings,” Despite Having an Oscar


The first question about “No Hard Feelings,” a middle brow comedy from Sony Pictures is this: why did Jennifer Lawrence agree to do it? And then, why, after winning an Oscar, is she full frontal naked running around on a beach and beating up high school kids?

You can choose different paths as an actor in Hollywood. You can ask yourself Would Meryl do it? Would Jessica Chastain do it? Or you could go another way. “No Hard Feelings” is the kind of half amusing comedy that Jennifer Lopez would do, although I don’t think she’d agree to the nudity.

Not that Jennifer Lawrence should be ashamed. She has a great body. And now we’ve seen all of it. Did it add to the comedic quality of the film? I don’t think so. Will it be a popular film for some to grab screen shots from? Yes.

Jennifer’s Maddie lives in Montauk, part of the Hamptons. Her mother has left her a nice house, but Maddie hasn’t paid the property taxes and now she has a short time to pony up or lose it in foreclosure. So she answers an ad placed by a rich couple — Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti — who fear their 19 year Princeton bound son is a dork and must get laid. Maddie, who’s 32 and very botoxed, figures this is the easiest way to make money fast.

The 19 year old, whose name is Percy, of course, is played by Broadway actor Andrew Barth Feldman. He’s supposed to be clueless by wises up pretty fast. After a few dates with Maddie, Percy sits down at a piano in a fancy restaurant and performs Hall & Oates’ “Maneater” as if he were a Broadway star with 10 years of training.

So “No Hard Feelings” makes little to no sense, but you’re supposed to go with it. For a while, you do, until Percy has morphed from shy introvert into star faster than the movie can keep track. There are dozens of little inconsistencies that start to add up as the screenplay plods along, and when the secret that Percy’s parents hired Maddie in the first place, the movie loses its main engine and begins to sputter.

Gene Stupnitsky directed and co-wrote the film. He comes from TV’s “The Office” and other shows where logic isn’t always necessary. When you’re writing a series, an inconsistency can be fixed next week. Not so in a movie, where you’re trapped in a finite space and everything must make sense. For example, somehow Percy gets a very expensive red Infiniti– after not knowing how to drive — which he plows into the ocean. The car is destroyed and no one ever mentions it again. (This whole sequence not being thought out is oddly ironic since Broderick starred in a famous movie about a wrecked fancy car in “Ferris Bueller.”)

Jennifer Lawrence got famous for the very literary movie, “Winter’s Bone.” Her Oscar came for the well-written and conceived “Silver Linings Playbook.” She made money from the “Hunger Games” movies. But then she took a bad turn with a horror film that didn’t work called “Mother.” If “No Hard Feelings” is the sign of a new direction, then she’s squandering her good will and exceptional talents. Let’s hope there’s a re-think.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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