You Hurt My Feelings

Nicole Holofcener teams up once again with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who shines as an author who discovers the truth hurts when she overhears her husband discussing her new novel

Film Review by Philip Concannon | 24 Jul 2023
  • You Hurt My Feelings
Film title: You Hurt My Feelings
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, Jeannie Berlin.
Release date: 25 Jul
Certificate: 15

The fact that Nicole Holofcener has named her seventh film You Hurt My Feelings makes complete sense – hurt feelings are this filmmaker’s stock-in-trade. From her 1996 directorial debut Walking and Talking onwards, Holofcener has established herself as one of the finest comic filmmakers working in American cinema, but beneath the laughs that she reliably serves up, her films always display an acute understanding of the myriad small ways in which people can wound each other. The importance of honesty within a relationship is a recurring theme in Holofcener’s work, and the truth usually hurts.

In You Hurt My Feelings, Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Beth, a moderately successful memoirist whose attempt to publish her debut novel has hit a wall with an unimpressed editor. Her endlessly supportive husband, Don (Tobias Menzies), reassures her that she’s a great writer, and that any inability to acknowledge the novel's quality is surely a failing on the reader’s part, but when Beth overhears Don telling a mutual friend that he doesn’t actually like her book, her whole world falls apart. “I wasn’t lying, I was encouraging,” Don insists, and Holofcener explores that space where the little white lies we tell each other with good intentions can have unexpected consequences.

This is the second time Julia Louis-Dreyfus has worked with Holofcener following 2013’s Enough Said, and they are a perfect match. Louis-Dreyfus plays Beth’s sense of betrayal beautifully – it’s hilarious, but rooted in real pain. It again makes you wonder why she hasn’t had more opportunities to carry a film. Louis-Dreyfus also has a wonderful rapport with Menzies, whose character is simultaneously going through his own crisis of confidence.

Don begins to question his worth as a therapist after hearing a client mutter “he's an idiot” as he leaves a session, and another client’s observation that he looks tired is enough to have him pulling at the skin around his eyes in front of the mirror and contemplating Botox. Holofcener doles out little dilemmas and insecurities among all of her characters. Even an idle question from the morose Beth to a married couple at a bar about whether they like each other’s work seems to instantly plant a seed of doubt in their relationship.

“This whole world is falling apart, and this is what’s concerning you?” an exasperated Don complains when Beth confronts him, but Holofcener understands that the problems that seem trivial on the surface are often the ones that burrow deep under the skin and hit us most personally.

Always coming in at around 90 minutes and rarely hinging on any major dramatic incidents (in fact, a brief brush with crime here is the film’s one jarringly inauthentic moment), Nicole Holofcener’s work may appear slight at first glance, but her intelligent and perceptive studies of human behaviour are a class apart from anything else in contemporary American comedy. You Hurt My Feelings will make you laugh, it will make you recognise your own foibles, and it may just make you hesitate the next time a friend turns to you with that expectant look in their eyes and says, “So… what did you think?”

You Hurt My Feelings is released 8 Aug on Prime Video; certificate 15