No Hard Feelings
25th June 2023
Words: Chris Richmond
They simply don't make movies like this anymore. The last decade or so, the movie industry has found itself in the disastrous position of only really creating two types of films: $200 million tentpole franchise movies or $10 million or less indie movies. The middle-ground movie, the mid-budget star-driven drama or comedy, has all but disappeared - No Hard Feelings exists in that middle category. It's a film straight from the Superbad / Step Brothers / The Hangover school of comedy. It's vulgar and racey and inappropriate, and for the most part, it's funny. It's good that a film like No Hard Feelings exists - modest in budget, big in star power. And the star power is undoubtedly the film's greatest strength. Without the central performance by the sublime Jennifer Lawrence, the film would be a good percentage less enjoyable.
Jennifer Lawrence is insanely watchable. In the hands of a less accomplished actress, this review would be a lot less forgiving. She's a movie star in every way that one can be a movie star, and her performance in the film is charming, witty, quick and warm. Her delivery is impeccable, genuinely guffaw-inducing on multiple occasions, and without her the film would fall to pieces. It's completely baffling that this is her first proper foray into comedy. We simply have to see her in more films like this - it's good for the culture. She's added another string to her bow (pun intended) with this, and it's almost unbelievable that this is the same women who delivered such tender and gritty performances in the likes of Winter's Bone or The Hunger Games or Silver Linings Playbook. It's a range that not enough of our modern superstar actors have in their possession, but Jennifer has it in spades. She is, simply, one of the best performers of her generation.
But it's with everything other than Jennifer that the film falls apart. The plot is thin and borderline unegaging, completely crippled under the weight of its central performance. Once the jig is up in the final act, the pace and momentum completely unravels, resulting in a finale that's dry and uninteresting. The film is full of legitimately funny set-pieces, but they're strung together by a plot so thin they're on the verge of snapping if held to any serious scrutiny.
But ultimately the film industry needs films like this. Films should be allowed to be only okay. And the film isn't even a total failure - it's still a fun time at the movies, and some of its drawbacks are buried in its short and pacey running time. And if the existence of No Hard Feelings results in more comedy work for Lawrence, then its existence could not be more justified.