Hard Feelings 2023 Movie Review
Opening shots: Cheese and beef. On teenagers, no less. Closeups of abs and butts and cleavage. It’s swimming pool day in gym class, and there stands Charly (Tobias Schafer), mortified in front of everyone. All the other kids chant CHARLY NO DICK over and over again, a holdover taunt from many years back when he was young and bullies yanked his swim trunks to his ankles. He’s been a pariah ever since. Now he’s a senior in high school, a misfit at the bottom rung of the popularity ladder. He’s very much a virgin, and the same goes for his one and only friend, Paula (Cosima Henman). They’ve been besties since kindergarten, platonic as all hell. One fateful night, they’re hanging out on her roof and chatting when KAPOW, lightning strikes the roof. Yeesh. Thank god they weren’t hurt. The next morning, Charly wakes up with a big stiff one, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s talking in his ear (voice of Tom Beck), just blabbering away like a horndog fratboy inside his head. He talks back, of course, out loud, as if to nobody, and then his parents bust in and it’s a whole thing, cringe cringe, embarrassment embarrassment, masturbation joke masturbation joke.
Now, whenever an attractive female walks by Charly, the voice whoops and hoots like an ape in a banana patch. It’s distracting. All he wants is for it to shut up forever, and it agrees, but under the condition that he have sex with Paula first. Oh jeez. Of course, there’s a choir concert that day and Charly has a solo and when he steps out to take the mic the beast in his pants puffs out its chest – so to speak – and makes its presence known to the entire student body. Charly runs off the stage and starts yelling at his dick and we have to suffer through the old he-left-the-mic-on gag. And of course, the subsequent viral social media post goes unpunished because people in this reality are free to be assholes with impunity. Anyway, Charly’s not alone – Paula has the same problem. No, she can’t hear Charly’s dick, but she can hear her own crotchal organs yammering on (voice of Monika Oschek), hungry for any piece of meat that walks by, and I will not make a lip-flap joke here. I will not. Life is pain.
There are so many complications to this scenario. Here are a few: Neither Charly nor Paula knows the other suffers from Genital Narration, and when she suggests they have sex and he rebuffs the advance, a rift opens between them. Against all odds, the viral video is picked up by a major influencer, which turns Charly from outcast to it kid, drawing romantic interest from new girl in school Francoise (Vivien Konig), and also from popular girl Marlene (Samirah Breuer), so Marlene asks him to come to her birthday party and he agrees and then brings Francoise as his date. Meanwhile, Paula’s parts teach her all about the Big O, which gives her a newfound swagger that draws in the popular dude Constantin (Louis Jerome Wagenbrenner), who she brings to Marlene’s party. Also meanwhile, Charly’s parents split up, apparently over an argument about where yogurt should go in the fridge. It’s not an important subplot at all, and you know how you can tell? Their genitals don’t speak – not out loud, at least. Maybe that’ll be the plot of Hard Feelings II: Die Harder.
You know, this isn’t a hopeless premise. Tasteless, yes. But hopeless, no. If Hard Feelings had the yarbles to expand upon the sentient-genitals idea and surround it with fresher fodder than the usual high school comedy junk – dances, mass embarrassment, cool kids/dorks dynamic, bullying, social media hijinks, wacky parents, clueless teachers/principal, etc. – it might work. And what if the sentient genitalia developed personalities beyond the base matter of the id? I know that’s kind of the point, but wouldn’t we be surprised if Charly’s dong and Paula’s hoo-ha became sympathetic to their plights and worked with them in a positive, healthy codependent fashion? That might be funny. Or what if we saved one or the other predicament for another movie, and let just Charly or Paula explore all the ins and outs (sorry) of their situations, maybe add in some babbling buttholes or something. They’d each get their own movie and then for the third, see what their respective parts have to say when they have sex with each other. Or maybe they go to an experimental lab and try to figure out the source of genital intelligence, giving the premise a sci-fi spin. It could be a whole franchise – the Look Who’s Talking reboot we didn’t know we needed.
But alas, one must review the movie that is, not the movie that could’ve been. And as it stands, Hard Feelings just doesn’t deliver the laughs. It’s flat and formulaic. When the film needs to deliver a piece of information or introduce a development, it has one of the two principals hide in a toilet stall or changing room so they can overhear someone else’s conversation; it’s a staple of the script, and repetitive to the point of being a drinking game. The subplot about Charly’s parents is perhaps supposed to inform or reframe his situation, but it’s so poorly executed, it feels like filler, and doesn’t yield a single decent joke. There’s one bit here that works, when Charly gets drunk and the dick voice and his voice become one and the same voice, and it’s every raunchy thing the dick voice would say. Otherwise, the material struggles to get traction, in spite of Henman’s attempts to deliver a thoughtful performance amidst all the predictable junk. And the ending? It’s surely intended to be shocking, but it’s the least plausible component of the movie, despite having nothing to do with self-aware gonads. No hard feelings, but this is the most pedestrian talking-pudenda movie you’ll ever see.