Directed by: Nicole Holofcener
Premise: A writer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) discovers that her husband (Tobias Menzies) has been lying about liking her latest book. Meanwhile, the husband has a crisis of confidence in his therapy practice.
What Works: As a domestic drama and a portrait of a family, You Hurt My Feelings gets to some interesting and relevant issues about contemporary life. The film is primarily about the way dishonesty is inherent to social relationships. At the start of the picture, married couple Beth and Don celebrate their anniversary with gifts that neither of them really want but pretend to enjoy to humor their spouse and avoid hurting the other’s feelings. The marriage is pushed into something resembling a crisis when Beth realizes Don has been lying about enjoying her latest book, leading Beth to question what else about their marriage has been inauthentic. This event illustrates a real aspect of relationships and the filmmakers dramatize it with a sense of humor. Don is a therapist who questions the efficacy of his practice. Several of the best scenes of You Hurt My Feelings involve Don in session with an irritable couple played by David Cross and Amber Tamblyn. Cross and Tamblyn are very funny together and the movie might have been more interesting if it centered on them or someone like them.
What Doesn’t: You Hurt My Feelings is a domestic drama that is set among wealthy and stable people and their affluence is alienating. The couple’s relationship challenges scratch at something real but You Hurt My Feelings suffers from barely discernable stakes. There is no sense that the couple is going to break up. The wife is mad at her husband for sparing her feelings; it’s hardly a grand betrayal and these people live such fortunate lives that it is hard to take their problems seriously. These characters mostly come across as whiners and that impression is exacerbated by the film’s loose narrative structure. You Hurt My Feelings does not escalate any of its conflicts. After the initial lie is established, the filmmakers attempt to create the impression of resentment brewing underneath the couple’s daily life but nothing ever boils over. A similar problem exists in the husband’s professional struggle. He has a series of unproductive sessions with his patients but he never really questions his career choices or faces a meaningful epiphany. The film never achieves a dramatic crisis. Despite only running ninety-three minutes, You Hurt My Feelings comes across padded.
Bottom Line: You Hurt My Feelings has good intentions and reaches for something substantive about domestic life but the film is dramatically flat and shapeless. It’s so low stakes that there’s nothing really engaging about it.
Episode: #951 (June 4, 2023)