Jennifer Lawrence's latest film, "No Hard Feelings," has been marketed as a raunchy R-rated comedy, but according to Caryn James, it turns out to be "tame and inoffensive." This begs the question: is the film a reflection of today's "Puriteens" culture? Lawrence herself had confidently claimed that the film would offend everyone in some way, but the reality is quite different.
The plot revolves around Lawrence's character, Maddie, a 32-year-old woman who is hired by the parents of 19-year-old Percy to "date" him and prevent him from heading off to college as a virginal wallflower. Sony's marketing and media coverage had touted the film as outrageous and subversive, but in truth, it falls into the realm of retro, echoing the "Wholesome Escort" trope seen in films like "Pretty Woman." However, this coyness exposes a larger trend in society.
Despite its relatively modest success at the box office, with a $15 million opening weekend, "No Hard Feelings" reflects the audience's ongoing appetite for sex comedies, even if the film itself is rather bland. It also highlights the cautious approach that Hollywood studios take when it comes to sexuality, particularly in the current cultural climate, where the conservative right and the progressive left clash over social and political issues.
Sexuality Explored: Maddie's Unconventional Perspective
Maddie is portrayed as a sympathetic character, a financially-strapped Uber driver whose struggles include saving her mother's house after her car gets repossessed.
The film humorously explores her nonchalant attitude towards sex, where she and her best friend recount humorous and less-than-ideal reasons for engaging in sexual encounters. However, despite the film's premise centered around Percy losing his virginity, it is his apparent lack of desire to do so that sets it apart from other teenage sex comedies.
One might argue that "No Hard Feelings" plays into the notion of "Puriteens," the belief that Generation Z is less sexually active. Maddie even poses the question at a high school party, wondering if anyone engages in sexual activities anymore.
However, such generational allusions are merely fleeting lines in the film. Percy is portrayed as an outlier, someone out of step with his peers, as he doesn't drive, drink, or engage in the same sexual pursuits as others at the party.
The fact that "No Hard Feelings" is categorized as a comedy is significant. Recent discussions have highlighted the lack of sex in contemporary films, with a longing for more uninhibited and freewheeling stories. However, comedies must accept and embrace sex as a part of life to be genuinely funny.
While the film attempts to do so, it ultimately steers toward a sentimental ending that focuses on Maddie and Percy's personal growth rather than their sexual experiences. On the horizon, "Joy Ride," set to release soon, promises to deliver the qualities that "No Hard Feelings" falls short on.
With a sex-positive narrative and raunchy humor reminiscent of "Girls Trip," this film has the potential to revitalize the genre. Major studios, however, have become more cautious in recent years due to societal shifts, evident in attempts to ban books, restrict abortion rights, and curtail drag performances.
The success of "Joy Ride," distributed by Lionsgate, could potentially pave the way for more comedies that genuinely explore sexuality. Meanwhile, if "No Hard Feelings" continues to perform well, it will likely be attributed to Lawrence's comedic talent.
Despite portraying the stereotypical Hollywood archetype of the good-hearted sex worker, Lawrence's slapstick moments and comedic timing prove to be winning factors. In conclusion, "No Hard Feelings" may not live up to its marketed raunchiness, but it