Sundance Review: The All-Too-Real Comedy of “You Hurt My Feelings” Is Genius
Written by: Hannah Tran | February 6th, 2023
You Hurt My Feelings (Nicole Holofcener, 2023) 3½ out of 4 stars.
If ever there was a movie premise created to start an argument between romantic partners, it might be that of Nicole Holofcener’s latest film, You Hurt My Feelings, which asks the question of whether you can love someone if you don’t love the work they create. What is a totally trivial matter, in the grand scheme of things, is here turned into a life-shattering revelation for main character Beth, who unintentionally overhears her husband’s largely unflattering thoughts on the book she’s been working on for the past few years. Teaming up once again with the talents of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said), Holofcener illuminates the little white lies that lurk beneath our everyday relationships for a tender and funny portrait of personal insecurity, resentment, and resilience.
Portraying these insecurities, Louis-Dreyfus brings a familiar comedic brilliance and a refreshing realness to Beth. In that character, she and Holofcener realize a charming, caring, and relatably flawed protagonist. Tobias Menzies (Netflix’s The Crown) and Owen Teague (To Leslie), in the roles of her husband and son, also each bring a unique sentimentality and intimacy to their relationship with Beth. The husband-wife relationship, especially, is written and acted to be believably sweet without becoming overly saccharine. The pleasantly surprising standout from the supporting cast, however, is Michaela Watkins (Werewolves Within) in the role of Beth’s sister. Watkins is similarly charming, although she’s given more of a frank edge to play with and, through this, she creates some of the movie’s greatest scenes.
Everything works perfectly in tandem with Holofcener’s writing and direction. The warm tones and framing immediately introduce these characters’ lives and the nature of their relationships. Even the costumes and production design manage to bring an added layer of wry comedy. The shift in tone from Beth’s perspective to her husband’s as a therapist who’s found himself slipping in his work is deftly executed, and it is intelligently handled by Holofcener, who uses it as a bookend for all of the plot’s more central problems.
While the premise blows up to seemingly epic proportions for the central cast of characters, the script itself feels a bit slight as it nears its conclusion. This may just be the nature of a barely 90-minute comedy, but there is an aching sense that the story is wrapped up too easily. That said, the final moments of the film show genuine character growth in a small but sweet way. And although I wouldn’t mind spending more time with these characters, I suppose having a story that audiences want to live in longer isn’t the worst problem for a movie to have.