No Hard Feelings is Jennifer Lawrence’s return to romantic-comedy form, and although the film is not consistently good, the veteran performer’s charm is enough to pull one through it. The story here involves Maddie Barker, played by Lawrence, a woman in deep financial trouble who agrees to date the son of a rich couple in exchange for a car that would bring her livelihood back. Although the plot and narrative in No Hard Feelings do falter over time, they still manage to have the overall effect that one would expect from a rom-com.
What is the Film about?
Set in Montauk, New York, No Hard Feelings begins with a man named Gary driving to his job on a bright, sunny morning. A tow truck driver by profession, Gary has received a court order to seize a car at an address, and he is rather pleased to do so since the car happens to be his ex-lover’s. Soon this ex-lover makes her appearance, as Maddie Baker tries her best to stop Gary from towing her car away, but none of her charms work at present. From a legal perspective, Maddie has no way out since she has not been paying property tax for her house, which has led to her assets being seized. On a personal level, too, she is unable to get Gary on her side since she once ghosted the man after a couple of dates.
Still unwilling to let go of her car so easily, for she is an Uber driver and is therefore jobless without her car, Maddie tries stealing it back from Gary’s truck, leading to some more legal trouble. The woman finds herself in an extremely difficult situation financially since she still has to pay off a large pending property tax for her house, which she had inherited from her mother. While the court has now seized her car, Maddie knows well that she will be evicted from the property and that her beloved house will be seized next. Her side job as a waitress surely won’t earn her enough to collect this money within the designated time, and her main profession as an Uber driver is now completely out of the picture.
But her hometown of Montauk does have a certain characteristic—the place is often filled with rich families who come to spend vacation weeks and time away from their metropolis hometowns to stay long weeks at the place. Although Maddie hates such people, whom she believes to be intruders making the lives of natives like her more difficult, her eventual solution comes in the form of such people. Maddie finds a strange job listing on Craigslist for a rich couple who want a young woman in her 20s to date their handsome but socially awkward son for some time before he goes off to college. In exchange, the couple has offered a good-condition Buick Regal as payment. Confident that she can still pass off as being in her 20s despite being 32, Maddie decides to take this job and earn herself a car with which she can restart her Uber business.
How does Maddie and Percy’s time together start off?
When Maddie first goes over to the house of this rich couple, the Beckers, she is determined to make a good impression on them. The parents are also rather shocked at why Maddie has applied for their job listing, and they even mistake her for a sex worker at first. Allison and Laird are helicopter parents to their nineteen-year-old son Percy, meaning that they constantly coddle the boy while also trying to control every aspect of his life according to their own desires. They are very proud of the fact that Percy will be attending college at Princeton starting next academic year, but they are also concerned about his social awkwardness. The boy is reported to just keep to himself, as he has no friends and hardly steps out of his room during his free time. Allison and Laird are also very concerned about their son’s lack of any romantic life or interests, and since they know (from his internet history) that Percy is heterosexual, they hire Maddie to help him loosen up before college.
From the very moment that Percy is introduced, his soft and sensitive nature is on display, as the boy voluntarily works at the local animal shelter. Since the parents want Maddie to hide the fact that they have hired her, she visits this shelter to make it seem as if she is genuinely and organically interested in the boy. But in stark contrast to Percy’s coy and nervous attitude is Maddie’s outgoing and outright seductive behavior, for she believes that this would work best. Maddie is confident that she only needs to do one thing in order to get hold of the desired car—to get intimate with Percy and make him believe that she is his girlfriend. The woman is also very confident that she will manage to do this very easily, but Percy is not like any usual nineteen-year-old.
After their very awkward introduction, Maddie persuades him to get into her hired van as she promises to drop him home from the shelter. While most other boys his age would probably be too excited to be alone with an older, attractive woman to notice the red flags, Percy is quite different, and he starts to keep mental notes of the van and Maddie’s behavior. As he is spooked by the unnaturally direct nature of the woman and also by the sinister looks of her borrowed van, Percy is sure that Maddie is about to kidnap him. As our protagonist believes that she has reeled him into her trap, Percy attacks her with pepper spray and then realizes his mistake. This does ultimately result in the two setting up a date, though.
As this strange and awkward relationship starts to grow, Maddie grows more desperate to get intimate with Percy and get her plan to succeed. It is indeed her helpless desperation that shows on the beach when she fights off three hooligans in a completely naked state. But Percy’s unwillingness deters her, for he claims that he is not ready to share his body with Maddie since he hardly knows her at all. Percy is also thoughtful enough to state that he does not want to lose his virginity just for the sake of doing so and would instead want to do it with someone he feels for. This obviously throws a spanner in the works for Maddie, and she is even more frustrated when Percy goes off to a party with a girl his own age.
How does Percy’s parents’ plan backfire?
Gradually, over their multiple meets and dates, Percy and Maddie do grow closer to each other. While Percy is definitely attracted to the elder woman, Maddie’s feelings for the boy are more of affection and concern. She starts to genuinely care for Percy and does want to help him out of his shell of awkwardness. The two characters also share about their personal difficulties and especially share secrets that they have not told anyone else. Percy reveals how his parents had been controlling of all his actions, taking his life’s decisions themselves without ever teaching the boy how to handle situations. This was mostly the reason behind Percy’s nervous and awkward reactions, and since he feared stepping out of his comfort zone, he had started growing into an outcast and a loner. He also tells Maddie about how a rumor about him sleeping in the same room as his parents got out of hand at his old school, because of which he had to change schools, and how his social awkwardness stemmed from this incident as well.
On the other side, Maddie reveals more about herself, too, as the woman once tried to leave her small native town and broaden her world and life, but she could only get to New York City before returning. This was because her mother had fallen sick at the time, and she had returned to take care of her and then stayed back for the rest of her life. There is a sense that Maddie still dearly clings on to the memory of her mother, and the fact that she is left without any family in the world quite affects her. It is because of this that she is so protective and defensive about the house she lives in, for it was once her mother’s house, who had passed it on to her. The house was the only inheritance, the only reminder of a family that Maddie has.
More comes out about her father as well, a wealthy man from the city who used to often come to Montauk for a vacation along with his family. He eventually got romantically involved with Maddie’s mother in an extramarital affair, and when the girl was born, he did not want to keep any ties with her or her mother. Many years later, the daughter had even written a letter to the man’s address, in which she asked about why he had abandoned them. But this letter was never received by the man or anyone else, and it was sent back to Maddie’s house on the morning of her high school prom. Not only did this leave her affected for the entire day, as Maddie skipped her prom night, but it also left a deep impact on her life overall.
This abandonment that she faced and realized at a very young age also seemingly shaped Maddie to be the way she is, for the woman is extremely skeptical about making romantic commitments. All her ex-boyfriends complain about how she never professed her love for them and how she eventually ghosted them. Maddie is evidently very scared and biased against making commitments in love, for she knows the effects of abandoning such promises. But in turn, out of her fear, she also turns into someone who abandons her lovers as well, for she cannot face and confront them about the truth either.
Eventually, Percy also professes his love for Maddie, and this immediately turns her sour and skeptical about what she is doing. But after some contemplation, Maddie cannot help but continue on her mission, for her situation gets worse. With the property seizure date coming closer, an old schoolmate of hers, now a realtor, also visits and tells her of his interest in selling her house. Still very defensive about the house, Maddie turns him away but also realizes that she definitely needs the money fast.
While Percy’s parents had hired Maddie to help their son come out of his shell and make decisions on his own, they did not expect to give him full autonomy. To these helicopter parents, the ideal situation would be if Percy would act like other boys his age while also abiding by their plans for his life. However, things in the real world do not work this way, and when Percy finally gains the self-confidence and courage to step up and make his own decisions, he decides not to pursue college at Princeton and instead wants to stay back at Montauk. Realizing their mistake, the parents immediately called Maddie and told her that her mission was over, although they agreed to hand over the promised car to her. But chaos ensues as Percy hears this conversation and realizes that Maddie was only a setup by his parents.
Do Maddie and Percy remain lovers?
Percy is initially livid at the fact that Maddie had been hired to help, and out of rage, he trashes the Buick car that she is supposed to get as her payment. But he also understands that it was all his parents’ fault and that Maddie was in a very desperate situation in her life. She also explained to him that whatever she had told him was genuine, and she could not help but agree with his parents’ plan. Percy confronts his parents too, and eventually, they let go of their controlling behavior, letting him make his own decisions and shape his own life from now on.
Maddie, on the other hand, receives the trashed-up car but also decides to make do with it. The car is indeed her last resort now, and the woman starts driving for Uber once again. With time, she does indeed earn the money needed to pay off the taxes, but Maddie also decides to let go of her past and sell the house. But she also ensures that the house is sold to her best friend Sara and her husband Jim, who were about to start a family but could not afford a house in Montauk. For herself, Maddie chooses to once again leave her town and go see the world, this time more determined.
Before leaving, though, the woman meets with Percy and apologizes to him for all that has happened between them. Percy is initially adamant about not letting Maddie near, but he eventually lets go of his grievances. Maddie and Percy were never meant to be lovers, but they were ideal friends to each other. Now, during No Hard Feelings‘ ending, the two indeed continue to be close friends, having established a really tight-knit bond. Percy also leaves Montauk for Princeton, and it is Maddie who drives him there on her way to some other city.