No Hard Feelings (15, 103 min)
Verdict: Weak romcom
When I left the theater at the end of No Hard Feelings, I wish I could say that the title of the movie reflected my own emotions.
But actually I harbored quite a few hard feelings. It is a romantic comedy, so weakly constructed, so lazily written, so bereft of humor and charm, that Billy Wilder’s mind is choked on his celestial cigar.
Yet it is not without promise. It stars Jennifer Lawrence, always a captivating on-screen presence, though not, as it turns out, quite talented enough to turn water into wine.
In No Hard Feelings, Jennifer Lawrence (left) plays the fun-loving, devoted Maddie who lives in a beach resort on Long Island
She plays Maddie, a fun-loving, devoted phobe who lives in a Long Island beach resort, where the annual summer invasion of well-to-do New Yorkers is bitterly resented by the locals, even when they make money.
Maddie herself is the disowned child of a fat cat from the city, who bought her mother a nice house after an extramarital affair.
But Maddie’s mother died and now Maddie can’t afford the property taxes she has to pay to keep her beloved home.
To make ends meet, she works a bar job and drives an Uber. But ends meet, and the Uber job disappears when her car is repossessed.
Then, in the kind of ingenuity only seen in bad movies, she sees an online ad posted by a wealthy couple who, yes, offer a handsome Buick to a young woman who’s hopelessly naive, socially inadequate 19-year-old son Percy ( Andrew Barth Feldman, who looks vaguely like a young Rowan Atkinson) in the ways of the world.
Percy, who doesn’t drink alcohol, can’t drive and has never dated a girl, is on his way to Princeton University and they want him to fit in. They especially don’t want him to arrive as a virgin.
But he was not allowed to know of their involvement in his carefully designed rite of passage.
Andrew Barth Feldman (left) plays the hopelessly naive, socially inadequate 19-year-old Percy
Percy’s father is played by Matthew Broderick, another likable actor, but equally unable to revive a crass movie like Lawrence, which gets bolder by the second as 32-year-old Maddie has a “coincidental” encounter with the young Percy accomplishes and persuades him. she wants him for his (weedy) body and (nonexistent) charisma.
There’s no reason age-gap sex comedies can’t be great. The Graduate (1967) is an enduring masterpiece. But that had great directing from Mike Nichols and a glorious Buck Henry script. This clearly doesn’t. It’s not that director and co-writer Gene Stupnitsky, one of the writers on the American version of The Office, doesn’t produce the odd laugh.
But a frontal nude scene with the handsome Lawrence feels born of absolute desperation, as do some decidedly awkward moments of slapstick. In time-honored rom-com tradition, Maddie’s all-hirsute relationship with Percy inevitably turns into something much more real, but several storylines don’t connect or disappear altogether.
Meanwhile, I see No Hard Feelings being extravagantly promoted on the side of London buses. Don’t run to catch it.
Asteroid City (12A, 105 min)
Verdict: style over substance
To paraphrase an old rule about London buses, we wait ages for a great movie, but only two duds show up at a time. Mind you, not everyone thinks Wes Anderson’s new photo Asteroid City is a lemon.
Wes Anderson’s new movie Asteroid City satirizes alien preoccupations and nuclear war in the Eisenhower era in the setting of a small desert town
I first saw it at the Cannes Film Festival last month, where it was received enthusiastically by some but left others mystified and bored.
After looking at it again this week, I’m still firmly in the latter camp. But it did call for a second viewing.
Of Anderson’s last three live-action films, I couldn’t have loved The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) more than I did, nor did I find The French Dispatch (2021) more exhausting. You never know with Anderson.
More than most other so-called authors, he invites you on a journey through his unique mind, but Asteroid City soon left me longing to disembark.
Set in 1955, it’s an incorrigibly stylized satire of those twin Eisenhower-era pursuits, the earthy of nuclear war and the unearthly of alien invasion.
An extraordinary cast is split between two camps. Bryan Cranston plays an old-fashioned radio announcer who introduces a fictional drama called Asteroid City, set in a small desert town where a meteorite once impacted. Edward Norton plays the show’s writer and Adrien Brody the director.
Set in the year 1955, the film stars Bryan Cranston (right) as an old-fashioned radio announcer alongside a cast that includes Steve Carell (left)
Their scenes are in black and white, but the drama itself is vividly rendered in bright 1950s pastels, starring Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Steve Carell and Rupert Friend, starring Jason Schwartzman, a recently widowed photographer and four young children.
Margot Robbie and Jeff Goldblum also make a brief appearance, the latter as a lanky alien who steals the sacred meteorite himself.
The film is full of verbal and visual jokes, a few of which actually work. Some of those who do are dear and hats off to the child actors, who are all great.
But the occasional treat isn’t enough reward to indulge in Anderson’s unrelenting self-indulgence for nearly two hours.