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No Hard Feelings

By Bradley Lane

Discerning filmgoers will notice that in recent years the volume of large-scale studio comedy films has dramatically decreased. What was once a goldmine for the studio system in the early to mid-2000s has become a financial liability in the 2020s. However, we still get a few every year, mostly dumped onto streaming services with little fanfare, but No Hard Feelings represents a serious change in the Hollywood comedy release strategy. In recent years, the only films to be theatrically distributed are massive event films, superhero films, franchise films and some horror films. No Hard Feelings resurrects both the studio comedy and sex comedy in 2023 to mixed results, but its mere existence represents a positive shift in the strategy of the movie industry.

Set in modern Montauk, N.Y., Jennifer Lawrence plays a down on her luck local being threatened to be pushed out of her home. In order to make up the money necessary to save her home, she takes on an unlikely gig, to date an awkward 19-year-old before he leaves for college in the fall. What results is a comedy of errors as the two open up to one another and form an unlikely bond given the peculiar set of circumstances the two find themselves in.

While its script certainly wouldn’t win any awards for originality (you can basically guess the ending from the first 20 minutes), the writing plays to the strengths of the performers. Jennifer Lawrence naturally slides into the confident and self-assured character required to remain composed in such a demoralizing situation, and Andrew Barth Feldman is a great straight man to Lawrence’s witty and hilarious dialogue. However, like most modern comedies, the film struggles to deliver compelling visuals on the level of the material on the page and the performances on the screen.

The visual storytelling in the film is almost nonexistent, and the cinematography is generously speaking, uninspired. It hurts so much to see the potential of a film like this because given a more interesting visual presentation it could be taken to the next level. As it stands though, without a clear style behind the camera, the film is stuck in mediocrity.

However, the writing and central performances make an otherwise bland film very enjoyable while it’s on, even if you might not think much of it once it’s over. Just the fact that this movie turned a profit through theatrical distribution is an indicator that audiences crave original films that don’t need explosions and large-scale action set pieces to sell tickets. No Hard Feelings is a good time while it’s on, best experienced with good friends and a fun night out, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of comedies of yore. – 3/5 stars

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