No Hard Feelings finally put Jennifer Lawrence at the center of a raunchy comedy, and the Oscar winner did not disappoint. Directed by Gene Stupnitsky, the movie follows Maddie (Lawrence), a broke 32-year-old Uber driver who answers a Craigslist ad from two desperate parents seeking a pretty girl to deflower their awkward, college-bound son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) in exchange for a Buick. Sounds kind of crazy, right? Well, apparently it’s not as far-fetched as one might think, and Lawrence recently revealed at Cinemacon that the central idea of No Hard Feelings was actually based on a true story.
Outlandish though it may seem, the premise of No Hard Feelings was inspired by a real Craigslist ad stumbled upon by one of the movie’s producers, Naomi Odenkirk. Odenkirk revealed to ET that on a fruitless search for something totally different on Craigslist, she happened on the “Casual Encounters” section of the site (which for better or worse for 19-year-old virgins and their despairing parents, no longer exists). She then discovered the “fossilized Craigslist ad” which served as inspiration for No Hard Feelings, shared it with fellow producer Marc Provissiero, and the rest was hilarious, horny history once they passed the idea on to director Gene Stupnitsky.
Stupnitsky read the ad from two parents seeking a hot, kind, twenty-something to bring their son out of his shell in exchange for a car, and thought about what kind of woman would take them up on this offer. He immediately thought of his good friend Jennifer Lawrence, met up with her, and presented her with the Craigslist ad. Lawrence “died laughing” and Stupnitsky and John Phillips got to work on a script. In an interview, Jennifer Lawrence told Hot Ones host Sean Evans that she wasn’t even looking for acting gigs when she received the script four years ago. However, she said that it was the funniest thing she’d ever read and that they just wanted to make the movie as soon as possible. So evidently, we have this raunchy sex comedy to thank for bringing J Law back to the big screen.
While No Hard Feelings might be rooted in reality, it’s still largely fictional. As far as anyone knows, nobody ever responded to the Craigslist ad, so Lawrence’s character, Maddie, as well as the depictions of teenager Percy and his parents (Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti), are totally made up. Therefore, every crazy thing that happens throughout the movie is also fiction — naked car rides and throat punches included.
The raunchy comedy No Hard Feelings begins with Maddie struggling to keep up with her bills so that she can hold onto her departed mother’s house. When her car is repossessed and her well-paying Uber gig is no longer an option, she’s strapped for cash and out of luck (if only Uber-Rollerblading were a thing). Cue Maddie’s best friend (Natalie Morales) pulling up an ad on Craigslist from two helicopter parents seeking a nice, beautiful woman in her early to mid-twenties, who can bolster their nerdy son’s self-esteem and get him some much-needed life experience before he goes off to Princeton in the fall. Although slightly older (give or take ten years) than the ad’s target demographic, Maddie desperately needs the Buick being offered as payment for the gig.
She answers the ad, puts on her tightest, pinkest dress, and after meeting his eclectic parents, heads to the animal shelter to meet her young new beau. Percy is a timid, sweet 19-year-old who spends his days hiding in his room and playing video games when he’s not volunteering at the animal shelter and hanging out with rehabilitated dogs. As Maddie lays all her best moves on the unsuspecting teen, the two begin to form a genuine bond, and Maddie learns the depth of Percy’s anxieties and the charming young man hidden beneath them. Although Percy eventually learns about the ruse and is understandably furious, he eventually reconciles both with his parents and with Maddie, and the movie ends with Maddie driving him to Princeton as they both leave home for a much-needed fresh start.
No Hard Feelings is a hilariously dirty film, but the movie wouldn’t work if it wasn’t also full of heart. While it’s shrouded in the profanity-laden guise of a late-night sex comedy, No Hard Feelings delves into complex themes, like dealing with intense bullying or moving on after tragedy. While at first glance it seems like the movie must have an obvious villain, be it the overbearing parents or the grown woman trying to get a 19-year-old into bed, No Hard Feelings really has no bad guys. While many of us would kill our parents if we found out that they had put out a mating call for us online, Percy’s parents really just want their son to be happy, no matter how unhinged their methods are.
Similarly, Maddie isn’t a creep and doesn’t push Percy’s boundaries, instead learning to care deeply for him and ultimately becoming the friend he needed all along. Even when she’s behaving totally inappropriately (like having a naked fight with teenagers on the beach or trying to seduce Percy when he’s clearly not ready to have sex), it’s obvious that the movie isn’t condoning her actions, but rather using them as a jumping off point to show how much Maddie grows over the course of the movie — while also making us cry laughing, of course.
As we enjoy Lawrence’s smashing debut in the wonderful world of raunchy comedies, we can appreciate the humble beginnings from which it started, with two concerned parents on Craigslist, and one bizarrely inappropriate, but ultimately well-intentioned cry for help trying to get their son laid. Alas, it seems as though the ad that started it all is lost deep in the darkest corners of Craigslist, but thankfully someone stumbled upon it and thought of Jennifer Lawrence.