You Hurt My Feelings
May 26th, 2023
MOVIE: YOU HURT MY FEELINGS
STARRING: JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, TOBIAS MENZIES, MICHAELA WATKINS, ARIAN MOAYED
DIRECTED BY: NICOLE HOLOFCENER
AMovieGuy’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
It’s rare these days to see a movie made specifically for people ages 40 and up. It’s even more rare for a movie to be about relationships after a certain age. Nicole Holofcener’s You Hurt My Feelings is about a married couple in New York, dealing with their own emotions, while their son looks to them for advice on his own struggles. You Hurt My Feelings shows that no matter how much we know one another, we can still sugarcoat life out of love, but sometimes that can leave a bitter taste in your mouth. It’s the genius writing of conflict by Holofcener and a career-best performance from Julia Louis-Dreyfus that makes this an authentic film to spend time with.
Beth (Louis-Dreyfus) is a writer and Don (Tobias Menzies) is a therapist. They have been married for some 20-plus years, and have a son Eliot (Owen Teague) who is now having his own life struggles. We catch up with them having dinner to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Beth has bought Don a new V-neck shirt and Don has bought Beth a delicate pair of leaf earrings. Nice gifts, but how do you tell a person you love that their gift sucks? The other two characters are Beth’s sister Sarah (Michaela Watkins) and her husband Mark (Arian Moayed), a couple equally having their own discomforts of middle-aged life. The conflict arrives when Beth accidentally overhears Don telling Mark that he doesn’t have the heart to tell Beth that her new book is bad. This sparks self-doubt, anger, and a questioning of what she thought was a relationship based on honesty. You Hurt My Feelings quickly becomes a study on how we protect the ones we love with the lies we might tell.
Holofcener is certainly digging into adult themes that a person struggles with. The character of Beth- the second time Holofcener and Louis-Dreyfus have worked together- is in many obvious ways a conduit for the director, but this kind of imposter syndrome is universal, no matter the age or career. Yet, it’s still these kinds of adult issues that make Holofcener’s writing rare and something to greatly appreciate. Fears that we have as adults may feel childish to some, but Holofcener balances her brand of blunt humor in a near-perfect portrayal of life’s awkwardness. It’s similar to the style of Larry David and still has the serious tones of a Peter Bogdonovich film, making You Hurt My Feelings feel incredibly timeless.
The narrative bounces back and forth between what Beth and Don experience in their day jobs. Students in Beth’s writing class are not aware of her work and Don’s patients hold back their true feelings about his style not to upset him. Each character’s own internal struggle is incredibly human. Beth wants to be good at her writing and wants the truth from her husband. Don wonders if he’s actually good at his job. But how does someone break that to another? It’s the big question we all ask about accepting constructive criticism. Don and Beth might not be able to handle it, but Holofcener allows us to see a way we all can grow, a way that we can learn to be loving in the most honest way.
In the end, it’s not just revealing that a couple can grow or change together but that anyone can. We see how lying to one another is just as bad as being honest. I also give You Hurt My Feelings praise for being a story about women of a certain age. Both Watkins and Louis-Dreyfus are equal parts delightful and stress-ridden. It’s almost impossible not to relate to them. We all have these sensitive sides, and we all have these guards up, but we all can learn something from one another. We just need to have the courage to tell someone when their writing stinks. I hope you can handle it. I know I can’t.
YOU HURT MY FEELINGS IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY MAY 26TH, 2023.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady