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“No Hard Feelings” – Review

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


On the surface, the film “No Hard Feelings” seems to have a simple plot and story-line. It’s entertaining and thought provoking. While it shares some themes of similar movies, it introduces some contemporary insights and unique situations.

Given the depth and breadth of topics, along with how it was written and produced, and the A-list actors involved, it’s likely to become a classic film that gets referenced in college cinema and film classes. It will also likely be one that gets revisited.

A superficial review of “No Hard Feelings” might incorrectly conclude that it’s a shallow B movie and doesn’t deliver on the premise it is founded on. The most vocal critics of the film summarize the plot as an inappropriate relationship between a 32-year-old woman (Maddie) and a young man who is 19 years old (Percy). So, the film will get some poor reviews from those who don’t like the age difference.

The concerning behavior of Maddie’s eager pursuit of Percy is actually driven by a financial motivation, not a lustful one. She’s not actually interested in him or any other younger men. The story-line makes this clear. So, a criticism from that angle is somewhat unfounded. There is no Mrs. Robinson aspect to the film. If you’re looking for that, or offended by it, either way you won’t get that in the film.

The rest of this review goes deeper into the topics and themes of the movie, including some spoilers. Probably any of these scenes and topics could be removed from the movie and not diminish the stated primary theme. Yet, they are added to provide extra depth to the characters and some social commentary.

The terms film and movie will be used interchangeably here to avoid repetition.

The photo at the top of this page depicts a coastal tourist destination similar that in the movie.

Topics below are listed in alphabetical order. The key characters are Maddie (age 32) and Percy (age 19) during his summer before college.

A-List Cast

Those who would write off this movie as superficial are overlooking the A-list cast including Matthew Broderick who has a filmography of successes going back 40-years in the industry. Broderick was the the leading character in the coming of age movie Ferris Bueler’s Day Off. In 2014, that film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It’s the equivalent of the U.S. Government figuratively wearing a “Save Ferris” t-shirt. Broderick plays an intense leading role in Painkiller on Netflix, which premiered in August 2023. In “No Hard Feelings” he seems to be outsized for the role he plays, but he does an exceptional job. He’s such a Godfather of the industry, so it’s a bit Zen-like for him to be playing such a humble role.

Jennifer Lawrence, now 33 years old, has become the highest paid female actor in Hollywood. The Hunger Games franchise has produced over 3 billion dollars in revenue. [Source] She’s known well, but not well known — people have heard her name, but may not know her background. The depth of her acting career is deep and comes through in a January 2023 60-Minutes interview. [View Interview]

It’s unlikely that such serious actors would participate in a movie unless they believed it had merit. So, we can assume there must be more depth and value to the movie than what appears at face value. Indeed, the film rises to the level of quality and depth of character we would expect from the many talented actors in the film.


At 43m 33s, Percy shares the story of being bullied when he was younger and having to change schools: “I had to switch schools after I had a sleep over in 9th grade and everybody found out that I still slept in my parents room sometimes. It turned into this rumor that I slept in the same bed with them. Then it became that I had sex with them. It was awful.”

In under 30 seconds, that backstory of his character seems to be just a passing comment, yet the entire movie really is about the life of a kid who was bullied and how the experience caused him to withdraw and be less social. It shows the long-term impact of bullying.


In two separate scenes in the movie, the topic of consent is addressed.

At about 40m 45s, the two main characters are fully clothed. Maddie asks Percy to hit her on the rear. Before he does, he asks for her consent. This may be a tip-of-the hat to the importance of consent, or perhaps it is a commentary on the uncertainty of acceptable behavior even between two fully clothed dating adults.

In another scene, at 1h 7m 13s, Percy says he wants to have sex, but Maddie convinces him that he shouldn’t because he’s drunk and it wouldn’t be right. There is a very similar scene in the movie Cutting Edge.


Maddie is bold and crass, but deep down has been insecure about leaving her home town. Percy helps Maddie find the courage she needs to break through some life-long barriers that had been holding her back.


For the local people working in service industries, education is not a prominent aspect of their life. They may have started their jobs while still in high school, or returned to the town after getting a bachelor’s or advanced degree. Either way, higher education would be a distant memory or far off dream.

Percy’s parents are a wealthy couple who are seasonal residents of the town. For them, Percy going to Princeton is a very high priority and a part of his identity and presumed life path.

While on a date, Maddie and Percy are at a restaurant. At 58m 17s, a friend from school (Natalie) approaches the table to say hi. She gives Percy a hug and tells him she’ll be joining him at Princeton. At that moment Maddie, seems a bit threatened and out of place since she doesn’t come from a higher education background.

In a recent interview, Jennifer Lawrence shared that she dropped out of school while in middle school. [Video Interview] She’s achieved great success in her career, but she may have occasions where her level of education may make her feel out of place when interacting with those who had access, privileged, and were born into wealth or otherwise attained higher-ed degrees. This is likely some life experience she drew from while playing this role. In the interview, she describes her acting success as the result of using empathy to feel, embody, and express how characters must feel in certain circumstances.

Drugs and Alcohol

At 1h 5m 19s the topic of drugs seems to make an appearance. It is a potentially scary moment at a party where Percy was drinking too much and unwittingly took a pill that reacted with the alcohol. It seemed that he may need to go to the emergency room. That scene could have gotten dark very quickly. It turns out he had taken an Ibuprofen. Alcohol is definitely not glamorized in the movie, but instead leads to people throwing up and getting injured.


The people who are locals of the beautiful coastal community mostly work in service industries to accommodate the tourists and seasonal residents. The movie avoids lengthy preachy in-your-face commentaries about gentrification. Instead, brief comments and conversations provide a glimpse into the impact of gentrification. For example, Maddie is threatened with losing her home. It is fully paid off, but local taxes have become so high, she’s having trouble keeping up. At one point, a realtor offers Maddie a good price for her home, but she’s not ready to let go of it. Part of the gentrification process is the pressuring of long-term residents to let go of family properties.

A “repo man” (who is also a local), a former boyfriend of Maddie, comes to take her car since she can’t make her car payment. In that scene we see how low-paid local workers are sometimes pitted against each other. These service industry people are pushed into poverty and an externally fueled community spirit of divisiveness.

Indigenous People

Related to gentrification, at about 6m 17s into the movie, Maddie is complaining to another local about the wealthy people moving into the community, “These people are moving in, trying to push me out, do you have any idea what that feels like?” The man she’s talking to seems to be indigenous to the area smiles and nods. That scene is about 20 seconds. It could be expanded into a full-length feature film documentary, but the point is made much more succinctly.

Inappropriate Relationships

While the age difference between Maddie and Percy may offend some people, it isn’t illegal. However, at 51 minutes into the movie, a former classmate of Maddie knocks on her door. They reminisce about school, and he explains that after he and a teacher from school had sex, the teacher went to jail. So, in this way, the movie doesn’t condone criminal behavior, and underlines the consequences of such behavior.

Locals vs Tourists

Many small towns and larger cities do not have the dynamic of locals and tourists. So, it’s not something people would have first hand experience with.

However, if you live in a community with seasonal residents and/or short-term visitors, you’ll identify with this dynamic. Vacation destinations or college towns have quite off-season periods and busy times of year.

Movies like Dirty Dancing or Grown Ups 2 show the relationship between locals working in the service industry, and generally wealthy people who are tourists from elsewhere or those who managed to break free from the small town and come back to visit.

“No Hard Feelings” does a good job of portraying the atmosphere and relationships of the townies with each other and outsiders.

Nerdy Awkwardness

Percy is a young man with a nerdy awkward personality played by Andrew Barth Feldman. He is similar to the young awkward male characters played by Michael Cera in Juno and Superbad. Feldman seems to take this role to the next level with more depth than we’ve seen in other similar movies. Feldman and Cera are probably tied in the exceptional way they convincingly encapsulate that persona of the awkward youth.

Nudity and Sex

This is a movie that proposes on the surface to be about an older woman pursuing intimacy with a younger man. There are many twists and turns that delay and derail her efforts, and they are what the movie is really about. The only scene that seems ready to evolve into a “sex scene” concludes in a few seconds. Later in the movie there’s some question as to whether that counted as sex.

There is only one brief scene with nudity, and it is not part of a sex scene. It’s a woman fighting with three people who tried to take her clothes while she was skinny dipping. She quickly wins the fight and they go running away.


We see a variety of parenting situations in the movie. Maddie had mostly absentee parents. Percy has over protective helicopter parents who in their love for him seem to have smothered and stifled him. Despite seemingly overseeing every aspect of their life, they aren’t really connected in a relationship with him.

Sadly, their overbearing concern for his well-being may have contributed toward his socially withdrawn personality. Bullying is always wrong and never the victim’s fault, but we learn that a triggering factor in Percy being bullied is that he would continue sleeping in his parents room sometimes even by 9th grade. This suggests an insecurity and excessive dependence on his parents that made him vulnerable to becoming a target.

Some aspects of Percy’s character are similar to the Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — sort of floating without purpose, withdrawn and awkward, living a life that is all planned for him.

Pet Adoption

The theme of pet adoptions is throughout the movie, in this case dogs needing a home. Percy works in a dog shelter. At about 22 minutes into the movie, Maddie stops at the shelter and is interviewed for adopting a pet. After the interview, Percy tells her, “Pet ownership may not be for you. Actually, you sound like the kind of person we would normally take a dog from.” This is actually an important scene because it shows how Percy is more responsible and grounded than Maddie. It is another example of how Percy helps Maddie grow to be more responsible.

Relationships and Intimacy

A common theme throughout the movie is the possibility of getting to know someone before having intimacy. At one point in a discussion (32m 48s), Percy says to Maddie, “I don’t know why you would want to have sex with someone if you don’t like them.”

In saying “don’t like” he doesn’t mean dislike, he means not having depth of a relationship where you have feelings for the other person prior to taking things further.

At 37m 54s, Maddie is pressuring Percy to have sex, and he says no. Then she gets upset and says, “Why not!?” He responds emphatically, “I’m not going to have sex with somebody I don’t know.” Maddie claims that it’s better to have sex with people you don’t know, and Percy says, “Not for me.”

In an age of hookup dating apps, this relationship advice seems a bit outdated, but with a new generation of young people who have some socially conservative leanings, this will be appealing.

In their first date, Percy asks Maddie some questions about her life and background.At 33m 12s, Maddie responds curtly, “What’s with the questions. Can’t we just get drunk and have fun?” Toward the end of the movie, at 1h 26m 09s, no longer with Percy, Maddie takes a guy home with her, and as they begin kissing on the couch. She starts to ask the guy questions about his life and background. He responds curtly, “What is this, a questionnaire?” Maddie has developed the desire to know someone before being intimate with them.

Reverse Coming of Age

Over the evolution of the movie, Maddie doesn’t corrupt Percy. Instead, he impacts her life. He’s a really nice guy who is taking life slowly and not in a hurry to experience adult life. The moment when we realized he’s converted her is when she goes home with a guy she met at the bar, and wants to get to know some things about him before jumping into bed with him. Confused, the guy leaves.

This is a reverse coming of age movie similar to the movie “Big” where the older woman in that movie sees the shortcomings of adult life through her relationship with someone seemingly younger.

Smartphone – Excessive Use

The topic of excessive smartphone use is addressed, with the depiction of how younger people are always on their smartphones and having too much screen-time instead of real-life experiences and face-to-face interactions.

Typical Guy

A common theme in comedy is to show the misadventures of typical guys including their crass and stupid behavior. The popular TV show “According to Jim” is an example of this. In “No Hard Feelings” a guy who plays a prominent role (Travis) depicts a typical guy in a comedic way.

Vehicles Made in USA

In a scene that could be a 60-second advertising spot for domestic vehicles, Percy and a friend are trying to damage Maddie’s car. After hitting it with a tire iron, then smashing it into a tree that falls on it, the car is still able to be repaired to running condition.


The attention to detail with clothing, especially with Percy’s parents, is exceptional. They both wear Apple Watches with band that match their clothing. Their personality, the furniture, the snacks on the table, the coffee table book, art, and entire setting of their living room seems very accurate. A photo of the parents with Percy show a helicopter in the background — presumably from a helicopter ride. It’s appropriate given their helicopter parenting style.

Wealthy People Portrayals

In perhaps an overly simplistic distilling of wealthy personalities, the movie depicts a nice understanding generous couple who are seasonal residents in the community.

There is also the familiar stereotype of a rich entitled bossy guy who speaks rudely and disrespectfully to a service worker. That scene is brief and seems to only be present to show some of the unpleasantness service industry workers can face.


If you get to the end of this movie, and have been waiting for the “sex scene” you’ll ignore everything else and conclude at the end that it was a movie about nothing. Similarly, if we’re living life with a focused pursuit on something, and don’t look around to see the dozen other things happening, we’ll miss it all.

This is similar to a central nugget of wisdom offered in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, when Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Working Poor

One of the main characters in the movie is working day-to-day as a ride-share driver. We see how losing her vehicle quickly cascades into a downward financial spiral. There are many people working from paycheck to paycheck, just one crisis away from financial collapse. The movie shows some of the trials and chaos that people face when living in poverty.

Video Clips

Below are some video clips that offer a look at the movie. These are shared in the order they show up in the movie.

Maddie Meets Percy’s Helicopter Parents

Flirting At The Animal Shelter

Maddie Meets Percy’s Nanny

Jennifer Lawrence Gets Jealous of a Teenage Girl

Percy Knows About the Deal

Document History

This review was originally posted on 29 Sep 2023. It was updated on 30 Sep 2023 to include updates and additional topic entries.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com