Not the Jennifer Lawrence vehicle you hoped for.
Jennifer Lawrence has blossomed in her movie career. “Winter’s Bone,” “X-Men: First Class,” “The Hunger Games,” “Silver-Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Don’t Look Up,” and “Causeway,” and so forth. She can appease to both the younger and older crowds with the right acting and versatility.
Her latest film “No Hard Feelings” is also her first raunchy comedy that basically has her channeling Cameron Diaz as if she starred in a rip-off of “The Graduate.” Only she isn’t a seductive wife, she’s a troubled young woman named Maddie, who is hired by two rich helicopter parents (Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti) to date their socially awkward and secluded teenage son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) before he heads off to Princeton.
Lawrence does a good job entering this kind of territory, especially when she expresses her character’s vulnerabilities, but the movie isn’t funny or lively as it thinks it is. In fact, it’s typical and crass.
She agrees to be Percy’s woman, because the deal includes a new car, which she needs for her Uber job, and she’s on the verge of losing the house she grew up with. She does everything in her power to turn the kid on, although it gets complicated considering that he’s practically weak about certain things.
She fights his fights when they go skinny dipping and some jerks try to steal their clothes. She’s the one who has to get hit in her genital area to get them back.
The kid orders a Pepsi, and the waitress tells them they only have Coke. And just as he wants to leave the restaurant, she orders him a Long Island iced tea. Of course he has to not like it as much as she does.
A quick joke has them at an arcade where she ruins a little kid’s chance to shoot some hoops. Like we haven’t seen that gag before or want to again.
And when they have an argument, she has to drive with him hanging on the car hood, while dodging an ongoing train, so the police can’t revoke her driver’s license. She’s surprised he can hold on for dear life.
And it’s inevitable that these two would eventually see the magic in each other. Although it wouldn’t last as long as they would hope.
Dustin Hoffman knew how to play a young man caught in the clutches of Anne Bancroft in “The Graduate.” Feldman is no Dustin Hoffman here. In fact, his performance is so amateurish, especially the way he finds out he’s been played out by his parents and hired girlfriend. He has to drink high tides and damage Maddie’s car, which are basically the same jokes.
Maybe this young man can prove himself to be better. Skylar Gisando proved that with his roles in “Booksmart” and “Licorice Pizza.” But at this point, he has to figure out why Matthew Broderick, Anthony Michael Hall, or Michael Cera we’re all iconic in their youth. And they still are.
“No Hard Feelings” was directed by Gene Stupnitsky, who also wrote and directed “Good Boys” as well as some episodes of “The Office.” His previous film was proof that he can enter the raunchy territory, but his next film only works in Lawrence’s acting skills, not for the comedy or supporting actor. To really understand an iconic coming-of-age story is to look back at some of the best like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Superbad,” or “Booksmart.” Even today, movies can go back in time for guidance.