The emotional core of this Jennifer Lawrence comedy happens because of a Hall & Oates song
Picture me with my stepmother in a college neighborhood in Seattle. We’re looking for something to do, preferably with air conditioning. We’ve sampled the artisanal ice cream shop on the main street (every college has one). But our rapidly melting cones’ reprieve from the heat was short-lived. We head to a small theatre. We decide that we’ll watch pretty much anything to escape Seattle’s unprecedented heat just for a couple of hours.
When we say “pretty much” anything, we mean anything but The Flash — which we will not be partaking in for obvious, Ezra Miller-related, reasons. And in that tiny, retro theatre, we only have one other choice: No Hard Feelings, the new movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and newcomer Andrew Barth Feldman.
NO HARD FEELINGS – Official Red Band Trailer (HD)www.youtube.com
It’s immediately clear to me that this is not a movie to watch with their stepmother. From the raunchy themes to the full-frontal nudity, the film is the definition of a late-night comedy. The premise is kind of: grooming?
Essentially, a pair of Hamptons helicopter parents hire a local girl (Jennifer Lawrence) to … turn their son into a man in exchange for . . . a car. Yes, this is precisely what it sounds like. What ensues is sometimes tough to watch. Lawrence plays Maddie (31) and Feldman’s Percy is only 19. And if this isn’t enough, she pursues and pressures him to “seal the deal” despite his constant insistence that he’s not ready. Yikes.
The only thing that saves this film is that, inevitably, they don’t go through with it. Conveniently, they both learn lessons, grow up, and get what they truly want. See? The movie seems to imply, all that discomfort and the murky dealings with consent turns out okay. Although this remains debatable, the most memorable scene in the movie is one of my favorite film scenes of the year.
The scene is part of the sequence that signals the turn from a raunchy comedy to a coming-of-age story. On the night the odd couple is supposed to finally go all the way, they . . . go to dinner — you know, because it’s a classy affair.
During dinner, Maddie asks Percy to play something on a vacant piano. After some convincing, he starts in on a Hall and Oates’ cover of “Maneater” — a song that references their first date.
Jennifer Lawrence is 🔥 #jenniferlawrence #andrewbarthfeldman #nohardfeelings #maneater
Clearly, the song has resonance in Percy’s life, and the camera keeps dramatically panning to Maddie’s tear-filled eyes to make sure we get the point. We get the point. Though the song and its symbolism hits us over the head, what’s surprising is how good Feldman is as Percy.
Feldman’s take on the song is artfully executed. True to his role, he’s tentative at the beginning, then earnest, then full-out confident. Triumphant. Musically, it’s an excellent arrangement. And Feldman? He’s got it. A voice like Ben Platt, sincerity without being saccharine, and genuine feelings.
This scene has been playing in my head all week. While problematic in premise, this film wasn’t horrid. I’ve already forgotten the trite antics — though they might have scarred my stepmother for life. (I did apologize profusely afterward for forcing her watch it. Shockingly, she insisted that she had a good time.) But despite it all, it’s this seemingly innocent scene that I keep returning to.
Whether it’s the movie magic of a musical number that always gets me — a la every fine 90s film — or the of Feldman’s surprising tenderness, this scene gave me chills. Perhaps it’s the scene’s contrast to the rest of the movie. Perhaps it’s because both Lawrence and Feldman are at their finest as actors, both vulnerable and no longer playing to the ridiculousness of the movie’s conceit.
Whatever it was, it’s worth watching No Hard Feelings just to see that scene. Or simply streaming the cover on Spotify: