"Is she jealous of the homeless?"
Actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus can do no wrong. She has proven herself worthy of being bestowed the title of "icon" in the comedy world. Television has been her playground for the past 35 years, and she has made strides in her career by appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in romantic comedies alongside Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, and James Gandolfini in films that have only upped her status as a living legend. Her lead performance opposite Gandolfini in 2013's "Enough Said" gave Louis-Dreyfus the space to collaborate with director Nicole Holofcener in a dramedy well-suited for the actor's talents.
Nicole Holofcener and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are at it again with the dramedy "You Hurt My Feelings," an examination of middle-aged East Coast elites and their subsequent imposter syndrome. Luis-Dreyfus stars as novelist Beth, a mediocrely successful author who is crying out for her next novel to be a hit but believes she might need more support and better representation. Her therapist husband, Don (Tobias Menzies), is the pillar of empathy. His own insecurities make it difficult for him to be honest with his wife about how he truly feels about her writing. Beth's sister Sarah (Michaela Watkins) is her go-to for advice and friendship. Yet, Sarah also deals with failures in her interior design business while worrying about her out-of-work actor husband, Mark (Arian Moayed).
This foursome represents a typical microcosm of life in New York City, minus the rats and subway travel. Beth's struggles come to a crossroads when she overhears Don talking to Mark about Beth's new book and how he isn't much of a fan. This realization takes Beth into a tailspin as she could always rely on her husband and now doesn't believe a word he says. She seeks guidance from Sarah and others but ultimately must contend with a life a little less ordinary.
There is a line that Beth recites to her mother (played by Jeannie Berlin) that sums up the premise of "You Hurt My Feelings" perfectly: "Maybe if dad wasn't just verbally abusive, it would've been a bestseller." This interaction speaks to the privilege and humor of our times, where underrepresented voices finally get some traction in telling their stories. However, it often comes with pain and trauma, both qualities which Beth truly hasn't experienced much of in her life until Don betrays her with an innocent comment about not liking her latest novel. Some stories that aren't traumatic can be shared, while some are everyday occurrences that resonate with a broad audience. Call it "white people problems," call it "a bump in the road," or maybe even "a nothing burger." Regardless, this simple betrayal is what "You Hurt My Feelings" is truly about, and it works well.
"You Hurt My Feelings" is a concise 90-ish minute film about marriage and the little white lies we tell ourselves and our partners. The movie's first half exhibits all four leads with successes in their respective careers, but self-doubt kicks into high gear for everyone. Small truths are revealed, feelings are ultimately hurt, and each character endures junctions that affect the sum of their parts.
There is a spotlight on Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Beth that cannot be denied, but Tobias Menzies holds his own as Don, the long-suffering husband. As a therapist, he isn't necessarily respected in his field, and his patients often find his services useless. Don and Beth are so similar it's unbelievable that they don't see it; if only they communicated more, they might realize what's missing in their marriage. The scenes with Don's patients (David Cross, Amber Tamblyn, and Zach Cherry) are the film's funniest and showcase the most relatable characters.
Nicole Holofcener's script is stunningly effective in illustrating these people's lives and the obstacles they must overcome. Even in times that might not resonate with adults outside the Big Apple, the characters feel lived in and remarkably honest in their pursuits for better lives. It speaks to the feeling many of us have contended with when changing careers, taking care of an aging parent, or trying to balance creativity and the prosaic aspects of everyday life.
This film is not a standout piece of filmmaking genius, but it explores how many of us tend to sweat the small stuff. With Holofcener at the helm and Louis-Dreyfus in the driver's seat, "You Hurt My Feelings" is a worthwhile watch for anyone interested in a bit of a chuckle while contemplating how little changes can result in a more extraordinary life.
Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟3/4