Jennifer Lawrence enjoys a birthday in August, yet she’s the one giving movie goers the gift of laughter this summer with No Hard Feelings (2023), the highest grossing R-rated comedy of the decade.
Although the star’s collaborations with filmmaker David O. Russell brought her an Academy Award for the romantic dramedy Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and an Oscar nomination for the black comedy American Hustle (2013), Lawrence was looking to make a broad sex comedy.
J-Law is known to action film fans for her work in The Hunger Games trilogy (2012-2015) and the X-Men film franchise (2011-2019) but says her new movie gave her a chance to star in “a totally different genre, with fun scenes and ridiculous dialogue that got me excited!”
Inspired by an actual Craigslist posting from overprotective parents looking to pay handsomely for someone to date their shy pre-collegiate son, No Hard Feelings follows Maddie, a 30-something Uber driver who will do anything for some extra money to keep the family home.
Lawrence describes her character as “a spirited, kindhearted, fun-loving, bold, funny lady. But she’s also desperate…She is trying to hold onto her house, which was her late mother’s house. She feels so certain that holding onto the house is the only way to hold on to her mother.” Despite these serious undertones, the actress says the screenplay by her friend Gene Stupnitsky and John Phillips was “the funniest script I’ve ever read.”
It takes one to know one since Stupnitsky and producer Alex Saks noticed Lawrence’s knack for comedy when creating her character. “We realized that she has a certain energy to her. Her laugh and her reactions are unique. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly, which is always very funny to watch, and she has a certain aggression to her. There’s something really bro-y about Jennifer that we really liked – and something a little scary. Gene and I are terrified of her. Those are all things we tried to bake into the character of Maddie,” explains Saks.
“As a friend, Gene saw her incredible comic timing, which hadn’t really been shown in her work,” continues Saks. “She’s hilarious in person, and Gene’s idea was to bring audiences a version of Jen that only her close friends had seen.”
By contrast, Lawrence’s co-star Andrew Barth Feldman plays Percy, an awkward and introverted 19-year-old. “He’s a sheltered kid going to Princeton, very, very smart, very sensitive,” says Stupnitsky. “His social life is online, like a lot of kids – lots of friends on social media and through the video games he plays. But he mostly lives in his room, and he needs to get out of there and into the real world.”
Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti play Percy’s parents. “They have a style of forced casualness in the way they treat people, but they’re actually very controlling. It’s very important to them to seem friendly and likable – to look like they’re not Type A – but they extremely Type A, and it’s very important for them to get exactly what they want,” says Broderick.
Feldman adds that his character lives in “the bubble that his parents have created for him. When Maddie finds him, she does everything within her power to pop that bubble.”
Perhaps life imitated art during the shoot since Feldman says Lawrence was “down for things that other people would not be, for sure…things that are intimidating for me to even think about. I couldn’t do so much of the stuff that she’s doing in this movie in a million years. Even when she has been afraid, she shows up, and she works really, really hard, and she does it.”