MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 26, 2023: YOU HURT MY FEELINGS

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Returning to movie theaters for the first time since 2013’s Enough Said, writer/director Nicole Holofcener (Lovely and Amazing, Walking and Talking) does what she does best in You Hurt My Feelings: Get inside the heads of insecure characters who are at a crossroads in their lives, figuring out how to navigate the thornier aspects of life and love. While talking, of course — because a Holofcener script is never short on words.

In this case, those characters are New York City writer Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who may be becoming Holofcener’s post-Catherine Keener muse, given that she also starred in Enough Said) and her therapist husband, Don (Tobias Menzies). Having published a fairly successful memoir, Beth is now anxious about whether her first novel will be well received — or even sell, for that matter. And Don is having his own professional challenges, second guessing his ability to truly help his clients. But the two of them have a solid, loving marriage built on honesty and support…or they do until Beth overhears Don admitting that he doesn’t really like her book.

Beth gets caught up in a spiral of self-doubt and resentment, which doesn’t improve when their aspiring writer son, Eliot (Owen Teague), tells her all the ways that her attempts to support and encourage him while he was growing up had exactly the opposite effect. At least Beth has her mother, Georgia (Jeannie Berlin), and her sister, Sarah (Michaela Watkins), in her corner, right? Sure, but their kibitzing doesn’t exactly solve Beth’s problems. Ultimately it’s only Beth who can decide whether she’ll be able to trust Don — or herself — again.

This sounds like a lot of big interpersonal drama, and it is — but there’s plenty of humor mixed in, too. (How could there not be, with gifted comediennes like Louis-Dreyfus and Watkins playing smart, sophisticated sisters?) There’s no denying that Holofcener’s characters tend to live in bubbles of privilege, but that makes her ability to turn their trials into relatable situations all the more noteworthy. Kudos to her, too, for portraying a marriage that has its bumpy bits but is fundamentally built on genuine affection and frank communication. We may not all talk as expressively as Holofcener’s characters, but we can all take a page from their book and grow through honesty.– Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

\\Loren King A wry and witty look at insecure, often narcissistic urbanities, You Hurt My Feelings reunites Nicole Holofcener with Julia Louis-Dreyfus who starred opposite James Gandolfini in Holofcener’s romantic comedy Enough Said. This time, Louis-Dreyfus is New York writer Beth, who has finally completed a novel after writing a fairly successful memoir. But her agent cautions her that it’s a new publishing landscape full of “new voices” so Beth frets that she’s become an “old voice,” torturing herself by gazing at window displays of books by better-selling authors. In a hilarious scene, Beth realizes that not one of the novice writers in her small group workshop has even read her book. Ultimately, the film is concerned with the very human question of why people do what they do. That it comes wrapped in such genuinely funny, gentle and honest observations is why Nicole Holofcener needs to keep making movies. Read full review.

Leslie Combemale Sometimes a film fan just needs a slightly offbeat comedy that doesn’t zing them halfway through with the death of the family dog, or abuse out of left field, or sharp betrayal by a trusted member of the inner circle of characters. You Hurt My Feelings comes from a very believable place, at times mundane, at times spot-on in how we can hurt each other, even through our love. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the rest of the cast are just annoying and self absorbed enough to have every viewer wondering if they should spend a little time looking inward. For a comedy, that’s a pretty impressive feat.

Pam Grady: Long wed, writer Beth (Julia-Louise Dreyfus) and therapist Don (Tobias Menzies) are so devoted to one another in Nicole Holofcener’s latest character-driven dramedy that their adult son Eliot (Owen Teague) complains that he feels like a third wheel within the family. That changes when Beth overhears Don confessing that he dislikes Beth’s new novel, leaving her to question the assumptions she’s long made about her marriage. But while tension that develops between husband and wife runs through the film, this is less the story of a relationship than it is the acute observation of multiple midlife crises. Beth has good reason beyond Don’s revelations to question her talent and viability as a writer. Don is such an indifferent therapist that he loses track of which client has which problem and he’s begun to obsess over aging. A client who keeps rejecting lamps sends Beth’s interior decorator sister Sarah (Michael Watkins) spiraling as she wonders about her life choices, while her actor husband Mark (Arian Moayed) copes with a faltering career. The performances are outstanding as together these four characters create a portrait of existential angst in a milieu of upper-middle-class Manhattan privilege.

Sherin Nicole A good piece of storytelling relates to us in multiple ways. You Hurt My Feelings, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, found its way to me. At first, the nostalgia of movies like this drew me in. Soft giggly indies that revolve around people who are comfortable enough to sweat the small stuff. Funny stories of neuroses and self-examination within the microcosms of families or intimate friend groups. This movie—about an author (Julia Louis-Dreyfus ), her therapist husband (Tobias Menzies), their cannabis-selling son (Owen Teague), the author’s sister (Michaela Watkins), and her actor husband (Arian Moayed)—brought me back to the movies I watched growing up; where the stakes were low but the relationships meant everything (and you could laugh at trouble). Read full review.

Jennifer Merin In You Hurt My Feelings, the latest dramady from Nicole Holofcener, the strongly indie writer director has characteristically assembled an outstanding ensemble of actors to bring to life the neurotic, needy, self-centered and thoroughly relatable characters in her screenplay. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays an author who is married to a psychologist (Tobias Menzies). Both of them are extremely insecure about their professional worth (and everything else) but they constantly reassure each other that their work, relationship and social life are brilliant. They depend on each other’s reassuring platitudes, but don’t actually believe them. And, they are surrounded by family and friends with similar needs and behavior. Their lives are New York upper middle class comfortable, but they are not comfortable in themselves, nor do they seem to be aware of or enjoy their privilege. The story revolves around their ongoing psychological readjustments as they confront the insecurities that flourish when they discover the truths camouflaged by their comforting little white lies. The script is seriously talky and very funny. The ensemble is superb. Holofcener’s unique voice and style entertain us with another gem of a film.

Sandie Angulo Chen: Writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s latest dramedy You Hurt My Feelings once again teams up the filmmaker with star Julia Louis Dreyfus and follows a loving, professional, middle-aged couple in New York City as they deal with an unexpected marital betrayal – the husband’s candid revelation that he doesn’t like his wife’s new book. Dreyfus plays Beth, the author in question, and Tobias Menzies (of Outlander and The Crown fame) plays her husband Don, a therapist. Holofcener’s observational films are character studies of realistic, mostly privileged people whose problems are believable even if they are first-world issues. The supporting cast stands out for their comedic performances, particularly real-life-couple David Cross and Amber Tamblyn as Don’s bickering clients, Michaela Watkins as Beth’s sister Sarah — a put-upon interior decorator — and Arian Moayed as Sarah’s aspiring actor husband, Mark.

Liz Whittemore You Hurt My Feelings is quintessentially New York. Nicole Holofcener presents a genuine Nora Ephron vibe in her writing. The dialogue is an extraordinary commentary on long-term relationships, the power of quietly acquiescing, and the consequences of honesty. It tackles all the issues, ranging from adult middle-aged relationship dynamics, aging parents, career burnout, selfless parenting, physical insecurities, and everything in between. Performances are outstanding. Tobias Menzies compliments writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s perspective on gender dynamics with ease, giving Don an overworked and typically male obliviousness that is spot on. Arian Moayed’s Mark is undeniably likable. His anxiety and self-deprecating humor are endearing. Michaela Watkins plays Sarah with masterful deadpan humor. She and Louis-Dreyfus have a chemistry that directors dream of. I would watch an entire series of their sisterly shenanigans in a heartbeat. Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives Beth the perfect balance of boldness and insecurity that make her relatable. There is something iconic about how she settles into a role, and Beth is no exception. In both Sarah and Beth, Holofcener captures the ups and downs of being a woman of a certain age. The striking difference between the two couples is so carefully crafted you don’t realize the irony until the end. It’s slick writing. Overall, You Hurt My Feelings is about celebrating the willingness to change and the complexities of communication with the ones we love the most.

Cate Marquis Wise and warm, You Hurt My Feelings is a gem, full of dry humor, human insight and truth. Writer/director Nicole Holofcener crafts a clever little dramedy built around a New York couple, Don (Tobias Menzies), a psychologist, and Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), his writer/professor wife, who seem perpetually nervous and unsure of themselves in their careers and personal lives, despite their comfortable situation, as do the friends and family around them. Each tries to reassure the other by uttering supportive statements of unconditional positive regard but the lack of honesty in these well-meaning statements provides little actual help. What starts out a bit like an old Woody Allen comedy, where we laugh at the way the characters seek out things to worry about, makes a sudden pivot after an overheard conversation. Holofcener brilliantly uses this turning point to spin things around, shining a light on these people’s foibles and inner lives, while commenting on human nature and the power of honesty. The cast is superb, and also features Owen Teague as the couple’s grown son, Michaela Watkins and Arian Moayed as Beth’s interior decorator sister and her actor husband, and a hilarious David Cross and Amber Tamblyn in a recurring bit as a bickering couple that Don is treating.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: You Hurt My Feelings

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Release Date: May 25, 2023

Running Time: 93 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriter: Nicole Holofcener

Distribution Company: A24

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Jamie Broadnax, Leslie Combemale, Nikki Fowler, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).