If you look back on the film industry a decade ago, there was perhaps no bigger star than Jennifer Lawrence. Fresh off several Oscar nominations and smack dab in the middle of Hunger Games mania, in just a few short years the young actress made herself into a household name. I can attest that at the time, if you were active on social media, it wasn’t crazy to see Meryl Streep comparisons thrown around for her just a few years into her career. Seemingly everyone loved Jennifer Lawrence, and she was on top of the world.
Then, something weird happened. A few misguided projects, and one too many X-Men movies after she stopped caring for the role later, it was as if the whole world at once developed a huge case of Jennifer Lawrence fatigue. The excitement that was once there for roles and collaborations disappeared, and by the beginning of the 2020s, the spotlight on her had faded.
Yet here we are now, seemingly on the cusp of a new renaissance for Jennifer Lawrence. A few years away from big roles, some well-received smaller films, and impressive word-of-mouth led to No Hard Feelings showing that the 32-year old Lawrence is still just as much of a movie star as she once was, opening ahead of studio expectations and nearly beating out the dead-on-arrival The Flash in its second weekend. I was so ready for this return to prominence. Last month I revisited the Hunger Games films for the first time in years, and was shocked at how well they have aged, truly a series ahead of its time, and Lawrence was at the forefront of the excellence of those films from just how amazing she is as an actress.
It reminded me why I was such a huge fan of hers in my early days of falling in love with films, and why she was really the first actress I got behind and championed as my favorite. The movie has had people talking based on its raunchy, albeit controversial premise, but most of the spotlight has been on the return of Jennifer Lawrence in a prominent studio film once again, and the movie proves more than anything that she is still more than capable of carrying a movie entirely on her back.
No Hard Feelings on the surface is just your average sex comedy, though it takes advantage of its out there premise by embracing the weird and cringe aspects of its concept. Lawrence’s down on her luck character works well off the awkward Andrew Barth Feldman, as the latter’s overprotective parents seek out someone to date their son before he heads off for college in exchange for a car. The premise is so bizarre that it does kind of work, because at no point does this film present it as normal, and they lean into the more cringe aspects of the “relationship” between the two leads. Some have raised concerns over the age gap present in the story (Lawrence’s character is 32 in the film, whereas the young Feldman is 19), and while I totally understand if this was enough to steer you away from the movie, Lawrence’s performance and the way the marketing leaned into the awkward feelings that a concept like this can make moviegoers feel, led to me not being bothered throughout the film.
The film for sure has its moments of raunchiness and absurd humor (look no further than a beach scene in the first act and you’ll know what I mean), though for the most part, they play it rather safe, and by the 2nd act the story develops more into a budding friendship between the two leads, which comes off as rather sweet and genuine, brought forth by strong performances by the cast.
The real star here though is Jennifer Lawrence. I am so glad to see her shining once more and hope she’s here to stay once more, because she is electric. Always a top tier dramatic actress, her comedic chops are excellent here, totally excelling in the rather goofy, self-deprecating role she portrays. We meet her and everything in her life, herself included, is just a mess, but we become attached to her character almost instantly because there are few that excel in getting you hooked into a character more than she can.
The moments where the film leans into dramatic, heartwarming moments would’ve fallen flat if she was not the lead here. The supporting cast is nice, including Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick as the aforementioned helicopter parents, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Skeen for Andor fans out there, gotta have my one Star Wars reference in here somewhere) plays a recurring role of a former flame of Lawrence’s character, but it’s really the Jennifer Lawrence show throughout. The spotlight is on her, and she eats up every single moment of screen time given to her.
Will No Hard Feelings end up on my best of the year list? Probably not, but it doesn’t need to be. I went into the movie wanting to have a good time, get plenty of laughs, and see a shining performance from Jennifer Lawrence, and I walked out satisfied with all three. It’s almost refreshing to see a movie like this again, it would’ve felt right at home with many of the comedies of the early 2000s, and it showed that the age of “the movie star” maybe isn’t truly going away like many are saying. If you’re looking for a good time, I’d check this one out.