Review: ‘No Hard Feelings’ (2023), starring Jennifer Lawrence

June 17, 2023

by Carla Hay

Jennifer Lawrence and Andrew Barth Feldman in “No Hard Feelings” (Photo by Macall Polay/Columbia Pictures)

“No Hard Feelings” (2023)

Directed by Gene Stupnitsky

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York state’s Montauk, Long Island, the comedy film “No Hard Feelings” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Latinos and Asians and one Native American) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A 32-year-old Uber driver/restaurant worker is in danger of losing her house due to unpaid tax bills, so she desperately agrees to be paid to take the virginity of a lonely and socially awkward 19-year-old man, who comes from a wealthy family. 

Culture Audience: “No Hard Feelings” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching cringeworthy sex comedies that have very outdated comedy gimmicks involving older women and younger men.

Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti in “No Hard Feelings” (Photo by Macall Polay/Columbia Pictures)

“No Hard Feelings” is a cringeworthy sex comedy in all the wrong ways. It has few laugh-out-loud moments and mostly recycles crude clichés from 1980s comedies about nerds losing their virginities. Jennifer Lawrence’s full-frontal nude scene reeks of desperation. It’s obvious that Lawrence wants to toss aside her “prestige actress” image for her starring role in “No Hard Feelings” (she’s also one of the producers of this train wreck), but there’s something kind of pathetic about how hard she’s trying to be “edgy,” when this outdated movie is as edgy as a used condom from 1984.

Directed by Gene Stupnitsky (who co-wrote the “No Hard Feelings” screenplay with John Phillips), “No Hard Feelings” has a very “male gaze” to it because it’s a sex comedy where the only full-frontal nudity is from the female gender. Even though there are men in sex scenes too, these men are never shown fully naked in the movie. (Lawrence’s full-frontal nude scene isn’t a sex scene, but it’s a scene that’s meant to be provocative.) It all looks like wish-fulfillment fantasies from sexist filmmakers who want to see women fully naked in their movies but not men fully naked in the same movies.

Everything about this dreck looks like it was written and directed by people who think female empowerment should mean being an obnoxious sex worker who doesn’t want to admit to being a sex worker. Let’s call it what it is: “No Hard Feelings” is about sex work, prostitution, or whatever term you want to use for anyone who has sex in exchange for cash or something of monetary value.

“No Hard Feelings” is being marketed on the concept that a 32-year-old woman named Maddie Barker (played by Lawrence) is desperate for money. And so, she answers an ad placed by two wealthy parents, who are offering a Buick to a young woman who can take the virginity of their reclusive 19-year-old son. The domineering parents have such control over their son’s life, they’ve put a GPS tracker on his phone.

Maddie is a lifelong resident of the beach hamlet Montauk, Long Island, in New York state. It’s an area where many affluent residents of New York City have homes that they often go to for the summer. The year-long residents of Montauk are usually working-class people who are in service jobs where they have to interact with upper-middle-class and wealthy people who are Montauk’s part-time residents. Maddie has a major attitude problem about not being as educated or wealthy as these part-time Montauk residents who can afford to have more than one home.

Later, it’s explained why she has this prejudice: Her biological father is rich, married and a New York City resident who has another home in Montauk. He had an affair with Maddie’s mother, who is now deceased. Maddie was the result of this extramarital affair, and she was raised by her single mother. Her biological father is still alive, he has another family with his wife, and he wants nothing to do with Maddie.

Maddie has two part-time jobs: one as an Uber driver and the other as a restaurant employee at a casual eatery named Charters. She lives in the house that she inherited from her mother. The house was paid for by Maddie’s biological father. Maddie has gotten behind on her real-estate taxes, so there’s a lien on her house, which she’s in danger of losing soon if she doesn’t come up with the money to pay the taxes.

Adding to her financial woes, Maddie hasn’t been making her car payments either. The movie’s opening scene (which is partially shown in the movie’s trailer) has her car being repossessed by a tow-truck driver named Gary (played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach), a sad sack who happens to be Maddie’s most recent ex-boyfriend. Maddie dumped Gary by abruptly cutting off communication with him, and he’s very hurt about it.

Maddie tries to flirt with and charm Gary so he won’t repossess her car. She leads him to believe that she might be interested in getting back together with him. This deception might have worked if Maddie’s latest fling (played by Christian Galvis), a hunky Italian guy, hadn’t come out of the house and made it clear that Maddie has definitely moved on from Gary. None of this is spoiler information, since it’s in the “No Hard Feelings” trailer.

Maddie no longer has the car that she needs to work as an Uber driver. There’s some not-very-amusing scenes of Maddie using roller blades as a means of transportation. It’s just an excuse for the movie to show some slapstick comedy of Maddie trying not to fall down when she goes to certain places on these roller blades. She also tries and fails to steal back her car from Gary—while she’s on roller blades. It all looks so corny and fake.

A frustrated Maddie soon sees an unusual ad that she thinks will be the solution to her financial problems: Two wealthy parents named Laird Becker (played by Matthew Broderick) and Allison Becker (played by Laura Benanti) are looking for a woman in her early-to-mid-20s to “date” their virginal 19-year-old son Percy Becker (played by Andrew Barth Feldman), in exchange for the woman getting a brand new Buick. The parents are worried because Percy is a socially awkward loner, and they want him to be more socially experienced before he enrolls in Princeton University as a freshman student.

This flimsy premise has so many problems. First, losing one’s virginity does not automatically give someone social skills. Second, it would have been a lot easier for Maddie to find a job that pays fast cash instead of going to the trouble of finding another car and then having to wait to get Uber customer requests for low-paying rides. Anyone who knows anything about Uber drivers (and all the non-union employee issues that Uber drivers have) knows that people do not get loads of money from being an Uber driver. Uber drivers also have to pay for their own car expenses, thereby reducing any wages they make as an Uber driver.

Third, who really believes that someone can pay off tax debts large enough for a house lien by being an Uber driver for a few weeks? “No Hard Feelings” expects viewers to believe this nonsense. And let’s not forget that the area where Maddie lives (the New York City metropolitan area) has among of the highest costs of living in the United States. Fourth, although Maddie sneers a few times about how “stupid” Percy is because he’s sheltered and lacking in street smarts, Maddie isn’t very intelligent herself. She wastes a lot of time hoping to get a Buick out of this “dating deal,” when she could’ve spent the time making real money.

But the witless plot of “No Hard Feelings” wouldn’t exist if it actually treated the female protagonist with some respect and had some unique cleverness. Instead, what viewers will see is a lot of Maddie acting entitled and combative to almost everyone she meets, but the filmmakers are trying to make this awfulness look like “female empowerment.” No one is expecting Maddie to be completely likeable, but there’s not much reason for viewers to root for this idiotic character.

And there’s more of Maddie’s stupidity on display. Maddie answers the ad by meeting Laird and Allison in person. Maddie arrives at the Becker house on roller blades. Laird and Allison ask Maddie to come up the high outdoor stairs into the house. Instead of taking off her roller blades, which is what any sensible person would do, Maddie clumsily tries to move up the stairs while on roller blades. It’s a sight gag that’s very stale.

In the meeting with these two creepy parents, it’s made clear that they expect Maddie to take Percy’s virginity, in order for her to get paid by getting the Buick. Maddie agrees to the parents’ demand to keep this deal a secret from Percy. This is sex work, but Maddie denies it by saying to the parents: “I’m not a sex worker.” Yes, Maddie, you are a sex worker, even if it’s just for a one-time deal. Admit it, own it, and move on.

Maddie tells the parents her real age, but she’s able to convince them that she’s a better candidate for the job than women in their early-to-mid-20s, whom Maddie thinks are too emotionally immature. It’s ironic, because Maddie is by far the most emotionally immature person in the movie. Percy is sheltered but he has a much better sense of respect for himself and other people than Maddie has.

And therein lies much of the problem with “No Hard Feelings”: It tries very hard to make Maddie look like a “free spirit” (she’s actually very mean-spirited) who wants to be perceived as a “liberated woman,” but the entire movie is about her actually being at the financial mercy of two wealthy manipulators who have hired her to be a sex worker. Maddie wants to be “tough” (she gets into physical fights with people), but she doesn’t want to be labeled a “sex worker,” because in her mind, being a sex worker makes her a bad person.

This is the mentality of filmmakers who have a madonna/whore complex in how women are portrayed in their movies: The women are either “virtuous” (not shown having sex in the movie) or “sinful” (shown having sex in the movie), with no realistic in-between. It’s a very backwards and misogynistic mindset often found in teenage sex comedies of the 1980s, where the geeky guys are the sympathetic heroes, and the (usually older) women they want to have sex with are hot-tempered and horny seductresses.

The Maddie character is the embodiment of this very tired and over-used stereotype. Expect to hear repetitive and not-very-funny jokes about the age gap between Maddie and Percy. Maddie is constantly mortified that, at 32 years old, she is often perceived as “old” by Percy’s peers. How about this, Maddie? Instead of worrying about being considered “old,” you should be worrying that your life has come down to having sex for a Buick. And let’s not forget that this Buick is not a guarantee that it will help Maddie make enough Uber money to pay off her tax debts.

Of course, “No Hard Feelings” throws in the “abandoned child” storyline to make Maddie look like she needs to be pitied. But make no mistake: “No Hard Feelings” is all about making Percy the real hero of the story. He is the only one who’s presented as having a pure heart. He is lied to and unfairly manipulated by a greedy egomaniac and two very twisted parents, who are let off the hook way too easily in this stagnant and putrid film.

The supporting characters in “No Hard Feelings” are mostly sounding boards for Maddie’s insecurities. Her only two friends are a couple of co-workers at Charters: Jim (played by Scott MacArthur) and his pregnant wife Sara (played by Natalie Morales) are having their own financial problems because they can’t afford their own place and are living with Jim’s parents. Jim and Sara know about Maddie’s “sex for a Buick” deal.

The so-called jokes in “No Hard Feelings” mostly fall flat. Early on in the movie, Maddie mentions that she’s gotten offers to sell her house to wealthy New York City residents, but she doesn’t want to sell her house to them because she’s biased against these types of people. Hasan Minhaj has a quick cameo as a smarmy real-estate agent named Doug Kahn, a former classmate of Maddie’s. The movie’s “joke” about Doug is that when he was an underage teen, he had a sex scandal with a teacher that was similar to the real-life scandal of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau.

After Maddie gets arrested for trying to steal back her repossessed car, she whines to her unnamed lawyer (played by Zahn McClarnon), who happens to be Native American, that she doesn’t want to give up her home to the people who want to take over her land. “Do you have any idea what that feels like?” she asks.

And then, she catches herself when she remembers she’s talking to a Native American, whose people experienced genocide and land stealing from white colonizers. “Of course, you do,” Maddie adds hastily. This lawyer is seen briefly again in one other inconsequential scene, which means he was only in the movie to be a setup for a joke about his Native American heritage.

Percy’s former nanny Jody (played by Kyle Mooney) is a supporting character who is shown briefly in the movie for no other reason but to be the target of homophobic-tinged jokes about gay men. Even though Jody is no longer Percy’s nanny, he’s still very concerned about Percy’s well-being. Because Maddie is relentlessly crass and rude, she has to make a snide comment implying that Jody, as a male nanny, might be involved in pedophilia and might be sexually attracted to Percy.

Percy is an aspiring musician, who spends a lot of time alone practicing on his electronic keyboards and playing video games. He also volunteers at an animal shelter, where Maddie goes to meet an unsuspecting Percy, under the ruse of wanting to adopt a dog. There’s a dour manager at the animal shelter named Crispin (played by Jordan Mendoza), who has some mildly amusing scenes, but Crispin is one of many supporting characters in “No Hard Feelings” that have no depth.

Lawrence has skilled comedic timing in many of her scenes. The problem is that her dialogue and the movie’s scenarios are so horrible or formulaic, it doesn’t matter how good her acting is in the movie (and her acting isn’t that great), it’s all cancelled out by this barrage of mind-numbing and often dull comedy. There’s a really good scene where Maddie and Percy have dinner together at a restaurant, and she pressures him to spontaneously start playing a piano that’s in the room. But that type of scene is few and far in between in this tacky and unimaginative movie that is ultimately a big step down and a total embarrassment for Oscar winner Lawrence.

Columbia Pictures will release “No Hard Feelings” in U.S. cinemas on June 23, 2023. A sneak preview of the movie was held in select U.S. cinemas on June 17, 2023.

Review: ‘Don’t Look Up’ (2021), starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Mark Rylance, Rob Morgan, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry and Jonah Hill

December 8, 2021

by Carla Hay

Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence in “Don’t Look Up” (Photo by Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

“Don’t Look Up” (2021)

Directed by Adam McKay

Culture Representation: Taking place in the United States (mostly in Michigan, Illinois and Washington, D.C.) during the six months before an apocalypse, the dark comedy film “Don’t Look Up” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: After a Ph.D. student in astronomy discovers that a catastrophic comet is headed to Earth to destroy the planet in six months, people have varying reactions, including a stubborn refusal to believe that the apocalypse is coming. 

Culture Audience: “Don’t Look Up” will appeal primarily to fans of the movie’s star-studded cast and apocalyptic comedies that repeat the same types of gags for an overly long runtime of nearly two-and-a-half hours.

Pictured in front row, from left to right: Jonah Hill (seated) Paul Guilfoyle (seated), Mark Rylance (standing) and Meryl Streep (seated) in “Don’t Look Up” (Photo by Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

The dark comedy “Don’t Look Up” is the equivalent of watching an annoyingly smug hack comedian tell the same clumsily executed joke for more than two hours. This movie crams in a lot of big-name stars to try to make it look better than it really is. In trying to make a point about complacency and denial about how climate change is a global crisis, writer/director/producer Adam McKay instead mishandles that point in “Don’t Look Up,” by not only overselling it with stunt casting but also selling it short with a bloated and messy story.

In a statement in the production notes for “Don’t Look Up,” McKay says that he was inspired to do the movie after reading David Wallace-Wells’ 2019 non-fiction book “The Uninhabitable Earth.” In the statement, McKay comments on the book: “I couldn’t get it out of my head. It depicts the ways in which global warming will wreak havoc on the planet if nothing is done to combat the climate crisis.”

McKay continues, “And, it all boiled down to this idea I just couldn’t shake: We all know how to react when there is a killer with an ax, or when your house is on fire, but what the author David Wallace-Wells was writing about was a million times worse. How do we get people to realize this is a clear and present danger? How close does that danger have to be for us to have the proper response? I felt like I needed to write this script.”

Based on the disappointing end results of “Don’t Look Up,” McKay should’ve spent more time honing the script, which lazily repeats the same gimmick about climate-change deniers being blithering idiots, and hammers this stereotype all over the movie like a robotic jackhammer on full-blast. Almost all of the people in the movie are caricatures who aren’t very funny at all. In a movie about an impending apocalypse, most of the main characters are not seen with any family members or even shown talking about family members. That’s how phony “Don’t Look Up” is and how it makes these caricatures just hollow vessels for the movie’s dumb jokes.

McKay and the other “Don’t Look Up” filmmakers seem to have spent more energy corralling numerous celebrity cast members (many of whom are Oscar winners and Oscar nominees) to overstuff the movie, rather than giving these cast members well-rounded characters to play. All of the characters are extremely shallow and one-note. And for a movie that has an all-star cast and is set primarily in the United States, it’s appallingly exclusionary and racist that the “Don’t Look Up” filmmakers couldn’t be bothered to cast any Hispanic/Latino people to be among the stars of the movie. When people talk about how Hispanic/Latino people are underrepresented in American-made movies, “Don’t Look Up” is part of that problem.

“Don’t Look Up” is the type of movie that takes nearly two-and-a-half hours (138 minutes, to be exact) to tell a story that could’ve been told in 90 minutes or less. And even if the movie had been about 90 minutes, it still would be stretched too thin by the flimsy plot. If you want to watch an apocalypse movie where people deny that an apocalypse is going to happen, and other people get angry at these deniers, while everyone mugs for the camera and tells really pathetic and poorly written jokes, then “Don’t Look Up” is the movie for you.

In “Don’t Look Up,” Jennifer Lawrence portrays Kate Dibiasky, a Ph.D. student in astronomy at Michigan State University. Kate works in an unrealistic-looking high-tech science lab that looks like a movie set, not a lab that’s supposed to be on a university campus. Kate is a character that looks like what an uptight person thinks is “edgy,” because Kate’s hair is dyed bright red, she wears a nose ring, and she likes to smoke marijuana. One day, a bored-looking Kate sees on her computer monitor that an unusual comet is in the universe. She perks up when she finds out that this comet is extremely rare.

She alerts her professor/supervisor Dr. Randall Mindy (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), who is so elated by this comet discovery, he throws an impromptu party with other students in the lab. But that elation soon turns to horror, when Randall calculates during the party that this comet is actually headed toward Earth. He’s so freaked out by these results that he doesn’t tell his students right away and quickly orders them to leave the building. However, he tells Kate to stay behind and confides his suspicions to her. Kate does her own calculations and finds out that the comet will destroy Earth in six months and 14 days.

Kate and Randall call high-level people at NASA, including NASA chief Dr. Jocelyn Calder (played by Hettienne Park), who is skeptical and doesn’t want to deal with investigating this claim about a comet that will destroy Earth. She passes Kate and Randall off to her underling Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (played by Rob Morgan), who is NASA’s head of planetary defense. Dr. Oglethorpe essentially becomes an awkward sidekick to Kate and Randall for much of the movie.

The next thing you know, Kate and Randall are whisked on a military plane to the White House, where they meet President Janie Orlean (played by Meryl Streep), who is obviously supposed to be a female version of Donald Trump. (Even if people didn’t know that McKay is an outspoken liberal, his political bias is obvious in his movies.) President Orlean is currently distracted because she’s in the middle of a scandal: Her nomination choice to be a U.S Supreme Court Justice is trigger-happy, right-wing Sheriff Conlon (played by Erik Parillo), whose past as a nude model has been exposed.

The scandal gets worse, when it’s revealed in the news that Sheriff Conlon and President Orlean (who is a bachelorette) have been secret lovers, and she sent him photos of her vagina. This is not spoiler information because—much like all the other crude scenarios in “Don’t Look Up”—it has no bearing on the plot. This movie is filled with a bunch of conversations that do nothing to enhance the story but are just in the movie to try to make everything in the film look like it’s “cutting-edge,” when it’s not. “Don’t Look Up” is really just a dumpster of tawdry and witless jokes thrown together in a monotonous cesspool.

Even though Sherrif Conlon is President Orlean’s choice to be a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, he doesn’t have a law degree. Choosing unqualified people for high-ranking government jobs seems to be President Orlean’s speciality. She has appointed her unqualfied and very obnoxious son Jason Orlean (played by Jonah Hill) as the White House’s chief of staff. (Jason’s father is not seen or mentioned in the movie.)

Jason likes to go on egotistical rants and occasionally spews garbage lines that allude to him having incestuous feelings for his mother. Here’s an example of the not-very-funny dialogue in the movie. At one point, Jason smirks about his mother when he says, “I can’t think of another president I’d rather see in Playboy.” He makes other creepy comments to make it clear that he’s sexually attracted to his mother.

Randall estimates that the comet’s destruction of Earth will be like “a billion Hiroshima bombs.” Kate and Randall desperately try to warn anyone who will listen about this impending apocalypse. The movie wastes a lot of time with repeated scenarios of Randall and Kate seeming to be the only people in America who are really sounding the alarm about this apocalypse and sometimes having emotional meltdowns because people won’t take the warnings seriously.

The over-used “joke” in the movie is that most people whom Kate and Randall tell about the apolcalypse either don’t believe them, or if they do believe, they shame Randall and Kate for being too depressing and paranoid. Meanwhile, other people try to use the apocalypse for their own selfish reasons, which usually have to do with wanting more money and power. A military plan to destroy the comet goes awry when certain greedy people discover there are vaulable minerals inside the comet that could make certain people a massive fortune.

The movie’s title comes from a catch phrase used by “apocalypse deniers,” who say, “Don’t Look Up” as their mantra, which they chant whenever and wherever they fell like chanting it. Many of these “apocalypse deniers” gather at rallies that the “Don’t Look Up” filmmakers deliberately made to look a lot like rallies for Donald Trump supporters, including many attendees wearing red baseball caps. In the movie, the “Don’t Look Up” slogan is used by people to identify themselves as not only apocalypse deniers but also advocates of other conservative-leaning political beliefs.

As an example of how poorly written “Don’t Look Up” is, several characters in the movie are useless and just take up space to further stretch out the running time in the movie. In the beginning of “Don’t Look Up,” Kate has a journalist boyfriend named Phillip (played by Himesh Patel), who adds nothing to the overall story. Somehow, the filmmakers of “Don’t Look Up” think it’s hilarious that there’s a scene of Phillip pondering how he’s going to describe in an article that Sheriff Conlon reportedly had an erection when he was doing nude modeling for an art class. “Was he noticeably aroused or engorged?” Phillip asks aloud when trying to decide which words to use in the article.

Randall is married with two adult sons: Marshall Mindy (played by Conor Sweeney) and Evan Mindy (played by Robert Radochia), who appear to be in ther late teens or early 20s. Marshall and Evan still live at home with Randall and his unassuming wife June Mindy (played by Melanie Lynskey), who has to quickly adjust to their lives changing when Randall starts to be believed and he becomes a celebrity “sex symbol” scientist. Randall also gets the nickname of A.I.L.F. (If you know what the slang acronym MILF stands for, just substitute the word “astronomer” for the word “mother” to know the meaning of the acronym A.I.L.F.)

June gets a little bit of a story arc in “Don’t Look Up,” but Marshall and Evan are completely generic. The movie makes no effort to distinguish between Marshall and Evan, in terms of their personalities. All the movie shows is that Randall has two sons who adore and almost worship him. This seemingly blissful family life is supposed to make Randall look like even more of a jerk when he gives in to temptation to cheat on June. (This review won’t reveal who becomes Randall’s mistress, but it’s not the most obvious guess.)

Other caricatures in the movie include Mark Rylance as a billionaire tech mogul named Peter Isherwell, who physically resembles Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook but who talks more like an Elon Musk type who wants to be a spaced-out New Age guru. Peter is a major donor to President Orlean, who kowtows to his every whim. It’s an obvious satire of how corrupt elected politicians will serve their biggest donors rather than serve the people whom the politicians are supposed to represent.

And in a lazily conceived apocalypse movie involving the U.S. government, “Don’t Look Up” has the most stereotypical of apocalypse movie stereotypes: a war-mongering military officer who’s in charge of a military operation to try to stop the apocalypse. His name is Colonel Ben Drask (played by Ron Perlman), who spouts a lot of racist and xenophobic comments. It’s all so the movie can further put an emphasis on showing that President Orlean surrounds herself with a lot of unhinged, extreme right-wingers.

More useless characters include an on-again/off-again music celebrity couple named Riley Bina (played by Ariana Grande) and DJ Chello (played by Scott Mescudi, also known as real-life rapper Kid Cudi), whose relationship drama further clogs up the movie. It seems like the only reason why these shallow lovebird characters are in the movie is to show their concert scenes, where they perform songs that refer to the apocalypse. Oh, and so Grande could do an original song (“Just Look Up,” the anthem of the movie’s apocalypse believers) that the filmmakers obviously wanted to be nominated for an Oscar.

And there’s a silly running “joke” in the movie that a character named General Themes (played by Paul Guilfoyle), who hangs out at the White House, charges people money for snacks and drinks that are supposed to be free at the White House. When Kate finds out that she was conned into paying General Themes for free food and drinks, she gets very snippy and bratty about it, which seems to be her reaction to most things. Kate’s ranting about having to pay for snacks at the White House seems to be the movie’s heavy-handed way of showing that even in an impending apocalypse, when people should be worried about more important things, people will still go out of their way to get angry over petty things.

Two of the more memorable characters in “Don’t Look Up” are slick and superficial TV news co-hosts Brie Evantee (played by Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (played by Tyler Perry), who would rather talk about the status of the relationship between Riley and DJ Chello than talk about the apocalypse. Blanchett and Perry understood the assignment of being in a dark comedy, because their Brie and Jack characters are the only ones in “Don’t Look Up” who come closest to being characters that viewers can laugh at and laugh with, in these news anchors’ non-stop parade of vanity. Brie gets more screen time than Jack because the movie has a subplot about her personal life.

Brie and Jack host a program called “The Daily Rip” on a 24-hour news network. Kate and Randall are guests on the show multiple times. And each time, Brie and Jack dismiss and disrespect the warnings about the apocalypse. The first time that Kate and Randall are on “The Daily Rip,” Kate has a very angry tantrum and storms off of the show. Kate’s meltdown becomes an unflattering meme. Meanwhile, just because Brie flirts with Randall and flatters him on the show, he suddenly becomes a sex symbol.

Kate’s relationship with Phillip doesn’t last when she becomes the laughingstock of the world, and he writes a tell-all article about her. She ends up working as a cashier at a convenience store called DrinkMo! that sells a lot of liquor (it’s an obvious spoof of the real-life BevMo! liquor store chain), where she meets a disheveled skateboarder named Yule (Timothée Chalamet), who comes into the store with a few friends. Yule is about 10 years younger than Kate, and he immediately flirts with her. You know where this is going, of course.

One of the worst things about “Don’t Look Up” is how predictable it is. And that predictability makes everything move along at a much more tedious pace. In addition to the terrible jokes, “Don’t Look Up” falters with cheap-looking visual effects, and the film editing is often careless and amateurish. “Don’t Look Up” has a lot of talented cast members, who get no cohesive direction in the movie. For example, Lawrence’s acting in the movie is very uneven: Sometimes she plays the comedy in a deapan way, while other times she’s way too over-the-top.

Other cast members try too hard to be funny. There’s a reason why DiCaprio rarely does comedies. Maybe he should stick to the dramas that he does best. Streep obviously used Trump as a template for her performance, so there’s nothing new and surprising about how she plays President Orlean. (And she’s played many bossy characters in other movies.) Rylance lets the shiny white teeth veneers he’s wearing as Peter do a lot of the acting for him.

Most the cast members seem to have been told to act as irritating as possible while in character. Only a few characters (such as Randall’s wife June and sidekick Dr. Oglethorpe) appear to be decent people. Riley and DJ Chello are too vapid to make an impact on the story.

And this is yet another “end of the world” movie where the male actors far outnumber the female actors. It’s not what the real world looks like at all, because females in reality are 51% of the world’s population. The same 51% female statistic applies to the U.S. population.

“Don’t Look Up” makes half-hearted attempts to show sexism, when people overlook Kate and shower attention on “sex symbol” Randall, who gets most of the glory for work that Kate did. But if the filmmakers intended to have any insightful commentary on women overcoming sexism, it’s overshadowed and negated by the movie making any woman in power (namely, President Orlean, NASA chief Dr. Calder and media star Brie Evantee) use sex to get what she wants and act like groupies when they brag about powerful men they had sex with or dated. “Don’t Look Up” does not celebrate female empowerment. The movie degrades female empowerment, by making it look like women have to sleep with men to gain power, with a woman’s worth in the workplace being valued more for sex appeal rather than talent, personality and intelligence.

Dark comedies are supposed to offer acerbic wit in poking fun at society’s problems, but “Don’t Look Up” is only concerned with stringing together a bunch of scenes where people say and do tacky and annoying things. Simply put: “Don’t Look Up” is boring, sloppily made, and nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. For a better-made and much-funnier all-star apocalyptic comedy film with adult jokes, watch 2013’s “This Is the End.”

Netflix will release “Don’t Look Up” in select U.S. cinemas on December 10, 2021, and on Netflix on December 24, 2021.

Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton get caught up in a web of sex, lies and spies in ‘Red Sparrow’

March 2, 2018

by Carla Hay

Jennifer Lawrence, Francis Lawrence and Joel Edgerton at a New York City press conference for "Red Sparrow" (Photo by Carla Hay)
Jennifer Lawrence, Francis Lawrence and Joel Edgerton at a New York City press conference for “Red Sparrow” (Photo by Carla Hay)

Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence takes on the edgiest role of her career so far in the spy thriller “Red Sparrow,” in which she plays Russian former ballerina Dominika Egorova, who is forced to work for her government as a spy in order to stay alive and provide housing and medical care for her ailing mother, Nina Egorova (played by Joely Richardson). As part of her training Dominika is sent to a “Sparrow school,” which brutally teaches its students (who are called Sparrows) how to manipulate people through sex, lies and violence. During her work as a spy, Dominika meets CIA operative Nate Nash (played by Joel Edgerton), and their relationship turns romantic but keeps the audience guessing about where their loyalties really lie and if one person will betray the other.

“Red Sparrow” is based on former CIA operative Jason Matthews’ 2013 best-selling novel of the same name. The movie was directed by Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer Lawrence), who previously worked with Jennifer on three of the four movies in “The Hunger Games” series. With plenty of violence that includes scenes of torture and sexual assault, “Red Sparrow” is geared to adults more than most mainstream spy films. Other members of the “Red Sparrow” cast include Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker and Ciarán Hinds Here is what Jennifer Lawrence, Edgerton and Francis Lawrence said when they gathered for a “Red Sparrow” press conference in New York City.

Jennifer and Francis, after working together on three “Hunger Games” films, you knew that you clicked beautifully. What was it about “Red Sparrow” that made you want to reunite?

Francis Lawrence: I was finishing “Mockingjay 2” when Fox sent me the [“Red Sparrow”] book, and I read it. I thought of Jen. Obviously, she’s a fantastic actress, so I knew she could really do an amazing job with the role. She’s also really fun to work with …

Jennifer Lawrence: I like this.

Francis Lawrence: So I thought that would be nice. And I also thought she could look Russian.

Jennifer Lawrence: I really like this!

Francis Lawrence: So when I finished reading the book, I called her up and I said, “Hey, hypothetically, I know you haven’t read it, but would you interested in playing a character like this?” And she said, ‘Yes.” And so we developed it with her in mind.

Jennifer, what was the key to discovering the Dominika character?

Jennifer Lawrence: There were so many things. I think the unique perspective on a life of a spy I’ve never seen a spay movie done this way, where it’s not glamourizing anything. It’s actually about the brutality of such a lifestyle, the anxiety, the lies, the deceit. And seeing this world of abuse, especially sexual abuse, through the lens of a woman who comes out and gets her power back by using her intellect—all of it was just very inspiring to me.

You trained in ballet in preparation for “Red Sparrow.” That was a whole new thing for you, right?

Jennifer Lawrence: That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life … It was actually amazing. Halfway through I was like, “Oh my God!” Because my overall end goal is not to be a ballerina, so I was having trouble finding the wherewithal to keep going. But then halfway through training, I started feeling my muscles changing and my body language changing.

And also just understanding the mental and physical discipline and the mindset of a dancer, I realized that all of this work was actually character-building. It changed the way she moved, it changed the way she looked and walked. It was just another layer on Dominika. And then I finished and just threw my shoes and ripped the tutu off. Out! Done!

Joel, there is such an honesty and sense of honor to your Nate Nash character. Was that one of the keys to understanding this character?

Edgerton: Yeah. It seemed to me from meeting Jason [Matthews], who wrote the book and was himself an ex-CIA operative, I suspect that there’s a lot of operatives who go out into the field because they think they can make the world a better place. And having that optimistic view of the world also, ironically, makes Nate kind of bad at his job in the eyes of his superiors. “You should be more cynical. You should put every judgment through a more cynical filter.”

But I think Jason must think it’s one of those things about working for the government: You start with that feeling that the world should be a better place and you should make your mark on that. I just think Nate is truly a good guy. And on the flip side of the men in [Dominika’s] life is someone who also wants to be a crusader for a damaged woman, but she doesn’t necessarily need him to get her vengeance, which I think is cool.

Do you think Nate’s honesty puts him ahead of the game?

Edgerton: Ahead of the game and behind the game. It’s like if you’re going to the Olympics, and you’re not a drug cheat, you’re in one of the final eight lanes, but you’re probably not going to win at the end of the day. “Red Sparrow 2” is going to be all about Nate’s corruption. I’m joking.

In an era where there are drones flying around and there’s big-scale espionage, “Red Sparrow” really feels like spying is more person-to-person interaction.

Francis Lawrence: One of the things I loved about the book was that it felt really authentic. I think it’s the most genre-specific thing I’ve ever done. I’ve always been a bit wary of doing things that are really specific to a genre, because they’re typically well-worn. So you want to do something that you want to be unique. The authenticity of the world felt very unique to me. And the character journey felt unique. And the humanity of the characters involved felt unique to me.

Jennifer and Francis, since “Red Sparrow” is your fourth film together, did you find a new groove or try something different?

Jennifer Lawrence: The way we work was the same. Our friendship was the same. The subject matter was different. It was nice to start a new world and a new character. All of that was nice.

Francis Lawrence: The only thing I thought was different was because of the content of the movie, the conversations started much earlier than they normally would have between us. I think Jen was much more of a partner in the making of the movie much earlier than she had been on “The Hunger Games” films with me, in terms of script development and thinking about how specific content is going to play within a story. But the dynamic was the same. I think we worked differently and more thoroughly, I would say, than we had before.

Jennifer, is it true that Francis gave you little bits about the story here and there instead of telling you the full story before you agreed to do the movie?

Jennifer Lawrence: He planted seeds. He would talk to me about it a little bit. He’s known about my insecurities around sexuality and my fear of being judged. He knew about these fears that I had. But I think what he didn’t expect was for me to read the script and actually feel floored by it and feeling like it was incredibly empowering. I remember thinking that if I were to miss out on making something this absolutely fantastic and playing this amazing character because of these insecurities, I would lose. [She says to Francis Lawrence] I don’t know if that surprised you or not.

Francis Lawrence: I was not positive that you were going to do the movie.

Jennifer Lawrence: Yeah, me neither.

Francis Lawrence: That’s why I was doling out information carefully. I didn’t want you to pass on the movie even before we had a script. I think that I wanted you to either say yes or no to the thing I wanted to actually make, and not just random ideas from a conversation.

Dominika uses her body and her sexuality to achieve her goals, but in the end, it’s her mind and intelligence that prove to be the most useful. Was that part of the character process for you in watching that character’s journey?

Jennifer Lawrence: That’s one of the marks of an amazing spy movie—everything gets turned on its head. There are so many twists and turns in this movie. You never see where anything is going. You look at this movie from the outside and you see the Sparrow program, which is very inhumane and sexualized. These young men and women are being trained in the art of physical seduction, but in the end, she gets ahead by using her mind.

These Sparrow training schools really existed in Russia, right?

Jennifer Lawrence: Yeah. It was used by the KGB. It could still by the SVR. We have no way of knowing. America actually tried to use it in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but it didn’t work because of the cultural difference between Russia and America. They would try to blackmail somebody, like say, “We’ll send these photos to your wife,” and they’d be like [says in a defiant voice], “Do it.” In America, they’d be like “Damn.”

Joel, did Jason Matthews give you any clues on how a real CIA operative would act in these situations?

Edgerton: I learned a lot from Jason. And strangely, I almost learned a lot more from his wife, because she was an operative as well. Dating in the field is something that is a little dicey because there’s a third party involved. You go on a date, and you’ve got to report it to your bosses, and that person has to be vetted as well. I guess it helped the two of them that they were already both in the agency.

Francis’ point about the human nature of the story, rather than the constant gun-battle, car-flipping part of this world—and there is that element to this movie—but the human aspect to the character. I was very curious about the day-to-day life, the constant anxiety and the constant loneliness, particularly for characters like Nate.

It’s easy to forget when thinking about spies in the James Bond and “Mission: Impossible” context that they still bleed red blood, and they still have to cook breakfast. I love finding out those things about characters—it’s just constantly grounding them.

There’s a lot of graphic sexuality and violence in “Red Sparrow.” What was it like to film all of that?

Francis Lawrence: Once Jen signed on, we started a real series of conversations about the content and what the tone of that would be and the theme and character and the narrative. We had to be really, really careful that we did those scenes were done right. So those conversations started really early, partially so that we weren’t really going to tiptoe around any of that stuff.

It’s very easy for people to get shy about that kind of material. Had we not broken the ice early, the next thing you know, you’re coming up to that scene, and you don’t know how to talk about it, and you’re worried about it. You’ve just got to be as open as possible. So that’s where it all got started. Then when you have a scene with these two in an apartment, it’s very easy to have a conversation and it becomes work.

You also create a sense of privacy, so you only have the people who need to be there, and you tent off the monitors, and that footage only goes to me and the editor. It doesn’t even go to the studio. It doesn’t go to the producers. So they feel they protected in that way. For me, it’s about openness and honesty.

In terms of the violent stuff, I keep hearing about the skin-grafting scene. People keep talking about how intense that is. It’s so shocking to me, because on the day [of shooting that scene[,it actually feels kind of silly sometimes. Joel’s tied to this chair in his underwear writhing around, and there’s this guy with a little rubber prop moving it along his back …

Edgerton: Everyone’s game to make it look terrifying, but at the end of the day, it is a little silly.

Jennifer Lawrence: [She says jokingly] I don’t know if we’re selling the movie correctly. I think we should talk.

Francis Lawrence: I think what ended up really selling the scene was Joel’s reaction, his whole visceral body reaction. And the sound that the sound designers did, what they used for the skin-grafting tool was just fantastic.

Edgerton: First of all, hats off to Francis in the handling of those sexual scenes to make it about the brutality and not some kind of attempt to excite an audience. But it is interesting when you get to deal with actor on set. It’s amazing how actors when working on scenes, as much as you can tiptoe around actors, when director wants you to do something, when you’ve checked into a project, it’s amazing how game you are for anything.

It doesn’t mean you don’t have anxiety leading up to it, and you may wrestle with your own demons about it, but you’re game. It’s amazing what great actors are capable of doing. I’m always amazed at watching people from a distance the way they fearlessly handle stuff. This movie is one of those.

Jennifer Lawrence: Like Francis said, the reality is shooting is so much different from watching. It’s so much harder to watch. On the day [of shooting], everything so technical. It’s funny because I feel like Francis has known me since I was a child. He’s like a paternal figure to me. [She says to Francis Lawrence] I hope that doesn’t make you feel weird or uncomfortable.

And the camera guys I’ve known since I was little. It was almost like being in a nude house, you know like those families who get naked in front of each other. It felt like that.

Edgerton: I think it was weirder for them than it was for you.

Jennifer Lawrence: I think it was way weirder. I accidentally moved something and flashed the camera guys, and they were like [she says in a horrified voice], “Oh my God!”

And then here was that time I accidentally made a mistake [about] Francis’ intentions of coming into my dressing room. He was being very respectful throughout the underwear process of finding the right lingerie. When I would go into fittings, they wouldn’t take pictures. You never really go on camera without the director approving your lingerie.

And so they were like, “Jen, Francis is here to see you.” And I was like, “Okay, send him in.” And he walks in and was like, “Oh my God! What are you doing!” I was like, “I thought you came in to see the costume!” There was a lot of laughter throughout the whole thing … but watching them was more disturbing.

When you filmed “Red Sparrow” in 2017, you probably couldn’t imagine the state of affairs the world would be in a year later. Can you comment on that?

Francis Lawrence: It’s clear that the movie certainly reflects the world we live in today, but there were certain aspects of that didn’t feel all that relevant. We never set out to make a political movie by any means, but I remember having conversations with the studio in the development process, and somebody saying, “This modern Cold War thing doesn’t feel relevant; it doesn’t feel all that realistic.”

But again, it wasn’t all that of an important element to us and to the movie, and we kind of rolled on. And then we were in Budapest, we were in pre-production, the [2016 U.S. presidential] election was happening, and this stuff starts coming up in the news. And suddenly, the movie is becoming more and more topical—at least that element in the movie is becoming more and more topical.

Jennifer Lawrence: The relevancy really kind of landed in our laps, but so many of the themes in this movie have consistently been relevant—the abuse, the manipulation and the use of women and their bodies and harassment and unsafe workplaces. A lot of these themes have always been relevant. Nobody should put any sort of political weight in this movie. It is fiction.

Edgerton: Sometimes you make something and it grows and hits an intersection with something a little more resonant than you expect. I think on the one hand, it’s not about election meddling or that sort of collusion, but there’s definitely a deep curiosity that still exists—maybe it was dormant for a couple of decades—about Russia when you look at it from an American perspective.

“What do they want? What are they doing over there? What’s behind that curtain?”

Every time it comes up, we get curious about it. So yeah, it’s good for us in that regard. As far as the subject of women taking back power. Anything that supports that or reflects that in a story form is also awesome.

Can you talk about how “Red Sparrow” feels modern with classic elements of film? Was Alfred Hitchcock an influence?

Francis Lawrence: I would say not really any particular film, but Hitchcock was definitely an influence for me in this, even down to weird little things. The use of screen direction in the opening sequence.

I remember learning about in “Strangers on a Train,” there’s a great bit in the opening of the film where a car pulls up, right to left, and feet get out, moving right to left, and then car pulls up left to right. And you feel the collision course purely based on screen direction before these two men ever meet. And then they sit on the train, their feet touch, and the movie starts.

And so, I did the same thing with Nate and Dominika, where Dominika is always left to right, and Nate is always right to left. And you feel the collision course between the two of them is inevitable.

Jennifer Lawrence: I didn’t know you did that. That’s really cool.

Francis Lawrence: I did. It’s some of those things you don’t need to know.

Jennifer Lawrence: I don’t know why your movies are good. They’re just good.

Francis Lawrence: There was definitely a [Hitchcock] influence. When we were trying to find the sound for the music, I was using a lot of classical ballet as reference, and listening to a lot of Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky and things like that. And then James [Newton Howard, the composer of “Red Sparrow”] and I sort of stumbled on this weird mix of Russian-ballet-meets-Bernard-Hermann, and that’s what created that sound.

Hollywood Walk of Fame announces 2018 star recipients

June 22. 2017

The following is a press release from the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

A new group of entertainment professionals in the categories of Motion Pictures, Television, Live Theatre/Live Performance, Radio and Recording have been selected to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was announced today, Thursday, June 22, 2017 by the Walk of Fame Selection Committee of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. These honorees were chosen from among hundreds of nominations to the committee at a meeting held in June and ratified by the Hollywood Chamber’s Board of Directors. Television Producer and Walk of Famer Vin Di Bona, Chair of the Walk of Fame Selection Committee for 2017, announced the new honorees with Leron Gubler, President & CEO for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce who is also the emcee of the Walk of Fame ceremonies.

The new selections were revealed to the world via live stream exclusively on the official website The live stream began at 2:15 p.m. PDT and was held at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce offices.

“The Walk of Fame Selection Committee is pleased to announce our newest honorees to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Committee looked carefully at each nominee and we feel that we have selected an eclectic group of talent that will appeal to the tastes of many fans around the world,” said Di Bona. “As a Walk of Famer myself, I know these honorees will remember the dedication of their stars with great memories and will be proud that they are part of Hollywood’s history now and forever. We look forward to their big day as the Walk of Fame Class of 2018 becomes cemented one by one on the most famous sidewalk in the world!”

The Hollywood Walk of Fame Class of 2018 are:

In the category of MOTION PICTURES:   Jack Black, Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Goldblum, F. Gary Gray, Mark Hamill, Jennifer Lawrence, Gina Lollobrigida, Minnie Mouse, Nick Nolte and Zoe Saldana

In the category of TELEVISION:   Anthony Anderson, Gillian Anderson, Lynda Carter, Simon Cowell, RuPaul Charles, Taraji P. Henson, Eric McCormack, Ryan Murphy, Niecy Nash, Mandy Patinkin, Shonda Rhimes, and posthumous Steve Irwin

In the category of RECORDING:  Mary J. Blige, Sir Richard Branson, Petula Clark, Harry Connick, Jr., Ice T, Snoop Dogg, Carrie Underwood and “Weird Al” Yankovic

In the category of RADIO:   Steve Jones

In the category of LIVE THEATRE/LIVE PERFORMANCE:   Charles Aznavour, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and posthumous Bernie Mac

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and its Walk of Fame Selection Committee congratulate all the honorees. Dates have not been scheduled for these star ceremonies. Recipients have two years to schedule star ceremonies from the date of selection before they expire. Upcoming star ceremonies are usually announced ten days prior to dedication on the official website

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