'You Hurt My Feelings' Offers Nuanced Insight Thanks to Julia Louis-Dreyfus Directed by Nicole Holofcener
Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, Owen Teague, Jeannie Berlin
Published May 26, 2023Julia Louis-Dreyfus, one of cinema and television's most brilliant talents, returns to the big screen as Beth, a one-time successful author, creative writing professor, mother and wife. She's struggling to finish a draft of her new book, repeatedly going back to the drawing board and asking her husband Don (Tobias Menzies) for his opinion.
Despite this current professional malaise, Beth is relatively happy. Her and Don's marriage is almost unbelievably happy — they're that couple that's been together for decades and somehow still really like each other — and she fancies herself a hip, cool, fun mom to their only child, 20-something Elliott (Owen Teague).
This seemingly idyllic relationship turns out to be made more from porcelain than steel. When Beth overhears Don tell his buddy that her latest book just isn't very good, their marriage — and Beth's emotional stability — crumbles..
Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, You Hurt My Feelings is a grownup rom-com that explores the intricacies of a well-worn relationship, where conflict has been avoided for years in favour of easier sailing. There's a great scene in which Elliott tells his parents that he feels like a third-wheel when they're out together as a family. It's a funny comment to hear from a son to his parents, and hints at a couple whose overt affection for one another is perhaps an exercise in overcompensation for the unseen and unacknowledged gulf between them.
You Hurt My Feelings interestingly surveys Beth and Don's relationship beyond the couple's perspective. Elliott, Beth's sister Sarah (Michaela Watkins) and brother-in-law Mark (Arian Moayed) all offer their insights on the marriage and their predicament. Menzies, Teague, Watkins and Moayed are all well-cast and have a comfortable rapport with one another. There's an organic quality to their interactions, almost as if the film has been improvised (which it wasn't); this is especially true for Watkins and Moayed's chemistry.
Of course, though, the star of the show is Louis-Dreyfus. Holofcener's script is ambitious, and while it doesn't quite stick the landing every time it goes big, thanks to the powerhouse that is Louis-Dreyfus, any shortcomings in the dialogue or story are cured by a single line delivery or facial expression. The actor realizes the messy grace of the character, elevating the complexities on the page and finding nuance when it's needed.
When the movie works, it really works. You Hurt My Feelings contains some sharp, witty banter that reveals a truth about relationships: that they're not absolutely truthful. It's a refreshing spin on the genre that feels mature and clever in its execution, even in the moments when the story runs a tad thin.
With a band of compelling performances, and a commanding lead from Louis-Dreyfus, You Hurt My Feelings is the quiet, mid-budget film that has been missing among cinema's massive franchises. (Elevation Pictures)