No Hard Feelings Review: giggles, rather than laugh-out-loud moments

Jennifer Lawrence and Matthew Broderick star in this new rom-com movie.

Jennifer Lawrence and Andrew Barth Feldman in No Hard Feelings
(Image: © Sony Pictures)

What to Watch Verdict

Jennifer Lawrence’s sharp timing brings the energy to what is otherwise an over-familiar comedy.


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    A reminder of Lawrence’s comic talents

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    Inspired casting of Matthew Broderick as the teenager’s father

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    A likeable, entertaining comedy


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    The gags and the laughs don’t last very long

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    "Been there, done that” script can’t resist stereotypes

Where have all the good comedies gone? We’ve reached the halfway point of the year, one that’s smothered us with blockbusters and superheroes but, at a time when we could really do with a proper laugh, they’re in noticeably short supply. 

Part two of 2023 may provide more chances to exercise our chuckle muscles, with stand-out summer titles including the much-anticipated Barbie and the Will Ferrell/Jamie Foxx vehicle, Strays. For now, however, it gets off to a reasonably promising start, courtesy of Jennifer Lawrence’s return to comedy in No Hard Feelings.

After the more somber territory of last year’s Causeway, she reminds us of her sense of humor in an energetic movie made very much with adults in mind. This time, she’s the carefree Maddie, just turned 30 and flitting from one boyfriend to the next. But her lifestyle is catching up with her and, with the money running out, she faces losing her home and her car. 

She thinks she’s found the answer to her troubles when she’s shown an interesting job listing posted by wealthy "helicopter parents" looking for somebody to "date" their 19-year-old son before he leaves for college. He’s an introvert, naïve, and socially awkward but once she starts getting to know him, he turns out to be more of a challenge than she expected. And she has just one summer to make him a man, or risk finding she’s been left with nothing. 

Directed by Gene Stupnitsky, who introduced the angelic Jacob Tremblay to the joys of adolescence in 2019’s Good Boys and, more recently, executive produced Freevee’s surprise hit, Jury Duty, gives us a film that nudges closer to the raunchier style of his first one, but fights shy of completely reproducing it, opting instead for something softer. 

On the face of it, the older woman/teenage boy scenario could be uncomfortable, but he neatly side-steps the potential for raised eyebrows by focusing on the two main characters, and examining which one of them is actually the teenager. 

Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) may lack confidence, but he has a strong sense of values and, underneath that hesitancy, is a decent kid. Lawrence’s Maddie, on the other hand, with her love ‘em and leave ‘em attitude, is stuck in a rut of shallow relationships and resentment against affluent incomers in her coastal hometown. It is, underneath all the gloss and jokes, a coming-of-age story. For both of them.

Jennifer Lawrence in No Hard Feelings

Jennifer Lawrence brings her comedic talent to No Hard Feelings. (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

As a comedy, there are plenty of giggles, rather than laugh-out-loud moments, and much of it relies on Lawrence’s consistently sharp comic timing. She isn’t, unfortunately, always best served by a script that frequently feels familiar and isn’t as explicit as the film implies. There is, however, one scene that has already garnered some notoriety, the one when Maddie and Percy are skinny dipping at night and have their clothes stolen by some drunken kids. Without a second thought, Maddie is out of the water and literally fighting them.

There’s a delicious and inescapable irony about one particular piece of casting, which provides a more subtle style of humor. Percy’s smothering father, who dresses like an aging hippy, — is played very nicely, it has to be said — by no less than Matthew Broderick. Essentially he’s the parent to a son who’s the complete and utter opposite of the role that everybody associates with him, a certain teenager called Ferris Bueller. 

It’s an ever-present thought in all the scenes between Percy and his parents and feeds into the occasional sideswipe in the dialogue. Stupnitsky, who also co-wrote the script, clearly has a feel for the understated, something that could have been made even stronger here.

Thanks to Lawrence and Barth Feldman, who is an endearing match for her, No Hard Feelings is a likeably entertaining comedy with more of a genuine heart and less in the way of raunch than you expect. If only it had something more original and fresh to say. Instead, there’s too much about the film which could be filed under “been there, done that” — the stereotypical teenagers verge on the cringemaking — and it ultimately sprinkles the laughs with cold water. You’ll still giggle but neither the gags or your reactions will last quite as long as they should. 

No Hard Feelings is released on 23 June 2023 in the US and 21 June in the UK.

Freda Cooper

Freda can't remember a time when she didn't love films, so it's no surprise that her natural habitat is a darkened room in front of a big screen. She started writing about all things movies about eight years ago and, as well as being a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic, is a regular voice on local radio on her favorite subject. 

While she finds time to watch TV as well — her tastes range from Bake Off to Ozark — films always come first. Favourite film? The Third Man. Top ten? That's a big and complicated question .....!