(Hall & Oates)

[Verse 1]
She’ll only come out at night
The lean and hungry type
Nothing is new
I’ve seen her here before
Watching and waiting
Ooh, she’s sitting with you, but her eyes are on the door
So many have paid to see what you think you’re getting for free
The woman is wild, a she-cat tamed by the purr of a Jaguar
Money’s the matter
If you’re in it for love, you ain’t gonna get too far

(Oh-oh, here she comes)
Watch out, boy, she’ll chew you up
(Oh-oh, here she comes)
She’s a maneater

(Oh-oh, here she comes)
Watch out, boy, she’ll chew you up
(Oh-oh, here she comes)
She’s a maneater

[Verse 2]
I wouldn’t if I were you
I know what she can do
She’s deadly, man
She could really rip your world apart

Mind over matter
Ooh, the beauty is there but a beast is in the heart

It’s important for me to start this review of “No Hard Feelings,” the newest Jennifer Lawrence film, with the lyrics of the 1982 Hall & Oates hit “Maneater.” The lyrics sum up the character of the film’s female lead, Jennifer Lawrence, as Maddie Barker.

Maddie Barker is a native of Montauk, a watering hole for the rich and famous. Maddie, raised by a single Mom, is resentful of many things in her life.  She is angry at the influx of the myriad well-to-do tourists in the summer season and just as angry that her own biological father—who was himself a married summer visitor—impregnated her mother and then left town, taking no responsibility for the daughter left behind. He paid her Mom off with the house they live in. A letter sent to her father years later was returned without comment. It is safe to say that Maddie’s relationship with men, in general, is summed up by the “Maneater” lyrics.

Jennifer Lawrence last appeared in “Causeway,” a grim portrait of a woman haunted by PTSD. This lightweight comedy was such an improvement. I hope she continues to, as one reviewer put it, “fly her freak flag,” because she does it so well and it is such a joy to see ANY recent release that isn’t a Marvel spin-off or a horror movie.

“No Hard Feelings” is the sweet story of a young woman Uber driver and part-time bartender trying to save her Montauk home, inherited from her recently deceased mother, which is in danger of being taken over for back taxes. She is hired by the wealthy parents of Percy Becker to try to socialize a very nerdy young man who is about to leave for his freshman year at Princeton at the end of the summer. Her payment will be a car to replace the car that is being towed by an ex-boyfriend in some early hilarious scenes.

Naming the 2 main characters “Becker” and “Barker” might not have been the strongest plot point. The side character that Kyle Mooney plays (“SNL”) seems completely extraneous and, to a certain extent, so is the character of the tow truck driver, Gary, played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach. That role reminded me of one that would fit Chris O’Dowd. But most of this movie is sheer pleasure, from start to finish, thanks to clever writing and excellent acting.

The nerdy young man is well-played by Andrew Barth Feldman (“Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway during his high school years.) Feldman does a great job of holding his own opposite Lawrence as Maddie. His helicopter parents have hired Maddie Barker to bring their son Percy Becker out of his shell. His father, Laird Becker, is portrayed by Matthew Broderick, looking grayer and paunchier. Mom Allison is played by Laura Benanti. The couple promises Maddie a secondhand Buick if she will escort son Percy around town and introduce him to the ways of the world, socially and, potentially, sexually.

Gene Stupnitsky is the director and co-writer with John Phillips. Stupnitsky is known, previously, for “The Office” (2005) and “Bad Teacher” (2011). With its $31 million opening, “No Hard Feelings” becomes the highest-grossing R-rated comedy since Stupnitsky directed “Good Boys” in 2019. The film has surpassed $50 million worldwide, on a slim budget of $45 million.

The movie has raunchy dialogue, as when Maddie goes to the veterinary clinic to “meet cute” with Percy, who volunteers there. She sees him cuddling a puppy and, dressed to the nines, approaches and says “Mind if I touch your weiner.” It turns out that Maddie means weiner DOG and, when asked why she wants to adopt a dog, says, “Because I can’t have dogs of my own.”

The uber confident Maddie, taking on some teenagers who are attempting to steal their clothes as they skinny dip in the ocean, while nude is a tour de force. Her confident and aggressive take charge attitude is perfectly contrasted with Percy’s indecisiveness. However, when Maddie convinces Percy to sing a song for her at a restaurant ( he selects “Maneater”), the significance of the song’s lyrics resonate and we begin to see the emotional growth that will occur for both main characters, leading to a better-than-anticipated happy ending.

Jennifer Lawrence is a talented actress and, boy, can she do comedy! I would much rather see her in something like this than in “Mother” or “Causeway,” despite acknowledging that she can expertly do both.

Now to my own unique connection to the song “Maneater,” which made this film a home run even for me.

I once did a road trip from the Quad Cities of Illinois to Fargo, North Dakota, to visit my friend Pan. This is a distance of roughly 500 miles. It takes 9 hours. This was in the 1980s, the day of cassettes. My radio was not working, so I was dependent on the cassettes I had brought for tunes for the trip.

I popped in Hall & Oates’ “Maneater” tape and enjoyed it for a while. Then, I attempted to eject it and put in a different tape; the cassette would not eject. I tried the radio, which was not working.  I had two choices: silence for 9 hours or “Maneater.”

Three times, along the route, I stopped at gas stations and asked various mechanic types to try to get this cassette out of my player, so I could change songs. I still remember the gas station attendant stretched out on the floor of my car, attractive butt-crack revealed, poking at the cassette player with a long pointed screwdriver-like instrument. He was unsuccessful in removing the tape, so it was “Maneater” or nothing for 9 long hours.

When my friend and I—who were going to be flying to Europe together on a girls only trip—went out the night after my arrival to a Neil Diamond concert (THAT will date me!) the tape was still stuck in my cassette player. We attended the concert and, after we emerged from the concert and started the engine, the tape magically popped out on its own.

I will never forget that song. I truly related to its message, then and now.

“No Hard Feelings” is a good one! Check it out.