You Hurt My Feelings

Director: Nicole Holofcener
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, Owen Teague, Amber Tamblyn, David Cross, Zach Cherry, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Jeannie Berlin
Distributor: Roadshow Films
Runtime: 93 mins. Reviewed in Jun 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong coarse language

Author, Beth, overhears her therapist husband, Don, saying he did not like her new book, leading to hurt and tantrums – and reconciliation.

This is a small-budget comedy drama that will appeal to older audiences. It has the added attraction of Louis-Dreyfus and memories of her presence long ago in Seinfeld, as well as her sometimes caustic presence from Veep. It is engagingly written, humorous, a lot of enjoyable sardonic comments and insights into human nature, though they are not presented in a highly dramatic fashion but rather inviting us in to observe, identify with and reflect.

The film was written and directed by Holofcener who, over the decades, has made a number of these types of films (including a comedy/drama with Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini, Enough Said – which, perhaps, is a title variation on You Hurt My Feelings).

The central character is writer and teacher Beth (Louis-Dreyfus, and with strong reminders of her previous television personas), feels she has been hurt and we are asked to identify with her. Which, we do and we don’t. The title is accusatory against the one who is alleged to have hurt feelings – in this case it is her husband whom she overhears commenting to a good friend that he really does not like his wife’s new book. In fact, he was trying to say that he would support her to the hilt even if the book didn’t appeal to him. That part she doesn’t overhear. And, on she goes, disdain, not talking to him, grudging acknowledgment of his presence . . . But, if the title had been something like ‘Prone to Being Hurt’, we might have been looking at her more critically and take the side of her husband, Don (Menzies) who really loves her.

Which means we are party to Beth’s tantrums whether we like them or not. The screenplay does give a lot of time to Don himself. He is a therapist. And there are two effective client sequences, his patient and listening to an extraordinarily demanding and talking-over-each-other couple who have been coming to him for two years, finally dissatisfied that he has been no help and demanding a $33,000 refund. The other is a large man finding his brother and sister difficult especially in their seeming lack of concern about their ailing parent, he muttering under his breath after each session indicating it hasn’t helped, but finally getting a few leads. To balance this there is a genial older man who has been in therapy for a while, is now finishing and is grateful to Don for all his help.

And there are some supporting characters in the background which help in giving us more insight into Beth and her being hurt. First, Beth’s mother, played by veteran Berlin, whom she takes to the doctor for examination, but is on the receiving end of mixed mode messages from her mother about her success or not. Then there is her sister, Sarah (Watkins) an artist and her husband, Mark (Moayed), an actor who has been fired and has almost as many tantrums as Beth. Add to this there is Beth and Don’s son, Eliot (Teague) who has been so supported by his mother, praising him for his studies, his swimming ability, that he feels (because he is not so good at studies nor swimming) that she has been setting him up to fail. There is a powerful kind of almost-therapy session when Eliot confronts his parents on these issues, and amazement to Beth, perhaps shocking her into a more realistic appreciation of the situation.

So, contemporary characters, some humorous and ironic dialogue, and analysis for hurting being hurt, and some therapy for the characters – as well as a bit of a therapy for us reflecting on how being hurt and, hopefully, acknowledging that we hurt others.

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