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NO HOLDS BARRED IN ‘NO HARD FEELINGS’

I am about to recommend a mildly raunchy R-rated comedy for one simple reason: I had fun watching it. I am so sick and tired of overlong, overproduced, formulaic “content” that this insignificant movie looks like a work of genius in comparison. 

To be sure, it is not that. Not from the man who gave us Bad Teacher a decade ago. Jennifer Lawrence stars as a sassy, brassy woman who has lived in the seaside Long Island town of Montauk her whole life. She has burned so many bridges that now she’s at risk of losing her home, where her single mom raised her. In need of a car in order to keep her job, she answers an ad soliciting the services of an attractive young female to “educate” a dorky, virginal high-school graduate in return for a Buick Regal automobile. You can almost guess what happens next.

Lawrence has had “it” from the moment she first appeared on film, earning an Oscar nomination for her supporting performance in Winter’s Bone (2010) and winning the Best Actress award just a few years later for Silver Linings Playbook. She’s still got it, and as she’s proven before, she is fearless, willing to play an unlikable character and bare it all in the process. (You’ll get no details from me.)

Director Gene Stupnitsky and co-writer John Phillips run her through her paces with a perfectly-cast Andrew Barth Feldman as the ultimate Nerd who falls for every painfully obvious move she makes. Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti are amusing as the boy’s overprotective parents.

The filmmakers thankfully keep one toe dipped in reality so that when they want us to care about these cartoonish creatures we do—just enough to allow the plot threads to be tied up in a satisfying way. No Hard Feelings is rude and crude enough to feel contemporary but not so much that it alienated me, a sometime-prude still dealing with what currently passes for comedy. I laughed, I smiled, and I was happy to be on my way home from the theater in less than two hours. No Hard Feelings knows what it’s about and, unlike so many other films of late, delivers the goods.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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