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Review: You Hurt My Feelings

May 26, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

What do you do when you accidentally overhear a loved one giving their honest opinion about something you’ve done? This is the basic setup for You Hurt My Feelings, the latest film from writer-director Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said).

The main character is Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a writer in New York who is coming off the release of her modestly successful memoir. But she is struggling to get her first novel published, while teaching a writing class of young adults. Beth’s husband Don (Tobias Menzies) is a therapist, who is starting to doubt his own abilities in dealing with difficult patients.

They have settled into the natural routines together that are a part of any longtime marriage. But this peace is accidentally broken when Beth overhears Don talking to her sister Sarah’s (Michaela Watkins) husband Mark (Arian Moayed), and giving his honest opinion about her new book; in short, he doesn’t think it’s very good, but doesn’t know how to tell his wife, and has been saying that he likes it just to be nice. Which sends Beth into a tailspin of self-doubt.

Don never would have said these things if he knew Beth could hear him, but does this make it ok? And does the fact that he even lied about her work in the first place make it somehow worse, no matter how well-intentioned he was being? Holofcener takes this premise and spins it into a story about the little white lies people tell each other, the gaslighting that happens when others find out the truth, and how being encouraging just to be kind can have a damaging effect.

These are pretty much universally relatable topics, and Holofcener explores them in a way that feels effortless, crafting a delightful dramedy around these uncomfortable truths. She is such a good observer of human nature and character interactions, and with You Hurt My Feelings, she proves herself a master at taking this sort of setup and fashioning it into something indelible.

Holofcener also does a good job of exploring how these revelations tie in to other characters in the story, including Beth and Don’s young adult son Eliot (Owen Teague), a chronic underachiever who is stuck working in a pot shop. As a screenwriter, Holofcener’s dialogue is sharp and astute, while still sounding believable and natural.

Backed up by the small but mighty ensemble cast, who all believably flesh out their characters, Louis-Dreyfus is near or at the peak of her career in the leading role. She nails the comedic beats, but also the deeper neuroses and genuine pain that Beth is feeling around having her self-esteem shattered. There’s an inherent pain that comes with the laughs, which is a balance that Holofcener does so well, and You Hurt My Feelings will leave you thinking about the questions at its centre for days afterwards.

You Hurt My Feelings opens exclusively in theatres on May 26th. It’s being distributed in Canada by Elevation Pictures.

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