Directed by Gene Stupnitsky, No Hard Feelings is a raunchy comedy that tickles your funny bone and, at the same time, makes you think about youth and the possibilities it holds. There are many hilarious moments in the film. All thanks to the performances that go in with all they’ve got to make the writing work.
No Hard Feelings‘s story revolves around Maddie Barker, who lives a lighthearted and casual existence, not fretting too much about her future. But when her car is towed away by her ex-lover, she realizes how much trouble she is finally in. Luckily, she finds a wealthy couple who are looking for a one-of-a-kind arrangement; they propose that she ‘date’ their son as a job, and she would be paid handsomely, even taking home a car. There is a freshness to this film, and I think Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is the key. She is effortless, even in the most bizarre scenes. Andrew Barth Feldman is a great find, and looking at his performance, it can be predicted that he has what it takes to go a very long way. Let’s take a look at both of their characters:
Jennifer Lawrence As Maddie Barker
Maddie Barker is not your typical good girl. She knows how to have an independent existence, but perhaps she doesn’t have the financial independence she would like. She works as a bartender at a local restaurant in Montauk. Words like ‘feisty’ or ‘gutsy’ don’t even do her character justice. She is all those things and more. She really would like to keep her car, which was taken away by one of her ex-boyfriends. Yes, she has had many! The thing is, despite being a cool person, she has also hurt many people. She has been callous about her relationships, deflected the tough parts, and chose to compensate with physical intimacy over an emotional connection. Why is she like that? Well, something happened to her in the past that has made her closed off, but the memory of it is fading, or so she thinks. She doesn’t want to be mean to anyone; it’s just that she gets a little scared, and that’s why she withdraws from any real connection.
Getting her car back seems impossible, and she finds a bizarre job opportunity online that promises to give her a Buick if she succeeds. A rich couple offers her a strange task: get romantically involved with their 19-year-old son. They did it because they thought their son, Percy, needed to get a taste of the real world before he went off to college. They feared he wouldn’t last otherwise, as he was not very social, and they didn’t want to send him off with his current personality. Maddie couldn’t care less about the boy, and she accepted the job. How hard can it be to excite a 19-year-old boy? But, boy, oh boy, was she wrong! Her whole charade of playing the risque and racy woman doesn’t work at all on Percy.
He was stuck too deep in his own thoughts. Maddie tried everything and got rejected at every turn. She was even maced by Percy when she gave him a lift and took away his phone. Maddie didn’t expect that Percy was actually looking for a real connection. When the topic of Percy’s upcoming prom night came up, those deeply buried memories came to the forefront. She told him that her father abandoned her and her mother because he had been having an extramarital affair. She even sent him a letter asking him the reason for the abandonment, but the letter was returned unopened. That was the day of Maddie’s prom night. She had been deeply hurt that day, and it created a void in her that she didn’t even want to fill. This explained Maddie’s running away from any relationship that got even a little bit serious. She is adamant about making Percy lose his virginity, but when he actually gets attached to her, she gets afraid and tries to back out. He had to play his own game to make her change.
She finally got the Buick, but Percy had changed her. He had made her question why she was afraid to leave Montauk and live the life she always wanted. She had also kept her mom’s house as an excuse not to leave the place, but she realized that she wasn’t happy. She sold the house to her best friends and decided to move to California, but she did not forget to drive Percy to Princeton University. She was a little afraid that he would get too attached and not want to leave Montauk, but this little game changed both of them for the better. She realized she wasn’t getting any younger, and if she had to make a move, it would have to be now.
Andrew Barth Feldman As Percy Becker
Nobody would think that the only child of a wealthy couple who cared about him so much would have any kind of problems in his life. But Percy was troubled precisely by his parents’ overbearing attitude. Actually, he had been bullied at school, and there were hurtful rumors about his supposed incestuous relationship with his own mother. When Maddie came in, pretending to be interested in him, he didn’t even imagine that it was out of some wild arrangement that she and his parents had set up. Percy thought Maddie actually liked him, so he genuinely wanted to get to know her.
He was the one who didn’t want to have a casual relationship with someone. Maddie didn’t understand him, and the issue got complicated only when he decided not to go to college altogether. He was a shy and reticent fellow who was always unsure about himself, which is why his parents were worried about how he would fare in college. But now he was so attached to Maddie that he was ready to postpone or even cancel Princeton. He was a wildly talented fellow and was ready to forego all that just for Maddie. She was essentially using him to get a Buick, and he was deeply hurt when he found that out. He could have handled the situation a little bit better, but he didn’t know how else to exact revenge. He tried to smash the Buick and completely parted ways with Maddie. Before doing so, he broke his habit of not saying what was on his mind and blurted out that Maddie was using her mom’s house and her father’s non-responsiveness as an excuse to hide.
If being with Maddie had made him confident and courageous enough to say such things back to someone’s face, she, too, was changed by his ability to really connect with someone before taking things forward. So, in a sense, both of them helped each other. Percy, in the end, was adamant that his parents let him have his own life. If he were to fail or succeed, it should be on his own terms. His parents’ plan had worked, in a way they hadn’t anticipated. As far as his experience with a girl, he hadn’t technically lost his virginity yet, but he had enough life experience now to help him make friends in college. They would share their wild experiences, and Percy would have his stories of how he and Maddie had wild nights in the streets and on the beaches of Montauk.