It is extremely rare to find a film that carries the weight of mundane life without over exaggeration. After all, the very medium of film itself is to tell stories that feel relatable but remain larger than life. We hardly experience films that attempt to do both, combining the every day, often stake-less tribulations of relationships and experiences with hilariously relatable characters. “You Hurt My Feelings” manages to pull off the seemingly impossible, delivering an incredibly small film centered on even smaller problems with characters that feel real and deliver the laughs. “You Hurt My Feelings” is a big things come in small packages kind of film, and expertly explores the little white lies we tell and the little white consequences they have on us all. Razor sharp and laugh out loud funny, this is a comedy with a lot of heart, wearing its craft on its sleeve and delivering so much more than its simple premise would suggest.
Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said,” “The Last Duel“) “You Hurt My Feelings” is a 2023 Sundance Film Festival darling and a triumphant return for Holofcener pulling double duty after 5 years of only writing. The film follows published author Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “VEEP“) who is working on a novel that serves as a follow up to her memoir. After getting some critiques from her agent, she inadvertently overhears her husband Don (Tobias Menzies, “Outlander,” “Game of Thrones“) telling a friend that he does not like her new book and resents having to have read multiple drafts as she works on it. This leads to a spiraling of egos, truths, and small betrayals that opens up the co-dependent nature of their marriage. The white lie of his support of her work creates a ripple effect of the little things we say and do in the spirit of support and encouragement, and begins to take an effect on their son and Beth’s sister and her husband as well.
In its most basic form, “You Hurt My Feelings” feels even smaller than expected. How could a film about a little white lie told in the spirit of makeshift encouragement be the basis for an entire film? Thankfully we have Holofcener at the helm, who imbues her script with incendiary wit and near perfect comedic timing, elevating a simple story to the heights of greatness. “You Hurt My Feelings” may be the funniest, smartest film of the year so far, and Holofcener’s terrific script paired with her patient direction helps solidify this kind of high praise. She is in complete control every step of the way, never letting her small idea get away from itself with absurdity while creating uncomfortable and hilarious situations that feel like they could’ve happened to everyone at one point in their lives. The power of “You Hurt My Feelings” is in the smallness, which Holofcener keeps intact from start to finish. Even with its seemingly stake-less, easily resolved conflict, the film still manages to highlight the deeper issues of self discovery, awareness and honesty without ever feeling overwritten or preachy.
The film is furthered by the brilliant performances from Dreyfus and Menzies, who perfectly capture a married couple with nothing wrong between them as a default defense mechanism to mask their small displeasures that have accumulated over the years. Additions of the criminally underrated Michaela Watkins as Beth’s sister Sarah and her husband Mark (Arian Moayed) are equally great, matching the level of comedy and timing required to make the script pop at every turn. Even smaller roles like Don and Beth’s son Elliot (Owen Teague) have huge impacts, and prove that everyone on screen is completely dialed into the wavelength of Holofcener’s script. I say it all the time but it bares repeating: it is magic when performers aren’t required to shoulder a lackluster script, and transcend their own capabilities when the script serves them rather than hinders their performance. The pairing of an excellent script and top notch performances cannot be overstated, and are what make “You Hurt My Feelings” such a great film.
The film genuinely has some of the funniest moments onscreen so far this year, many of which I haven’t been able to get out of my head. There’s a particular scene involving Don and a demand for a refund from David Cross that is quite possibly one of the funniest, uncomfortable jokes of the year. “You Hurt My Feelings” never delves into overstaying its welcome or trading out purpose for a cheap laugh. The confidence and delicate approach that Holofcener takes allows this lighthearted and simple comedy sing louder than its premise would have you believe, and I can’t stress enough how delightful this little film ends up being. A24 continues their smart distribution decisions, curating a steady string of bangers and show no signs of slowing down with this latest offering.
I can’t recommend “You Hurt My Feelings” enough. It’s the kind of film average movie goers often miss and then when they finally stumble upon it cannot believe no one told them about it. I’m telling you now, watch “You Hurt My Feelings.” It is a gem of a film, the perfect iteration of a rawkus comedy with something to say and a convergence of sharp writing, solid directing and terrific performances.
You don’t have to white lie to me if you watch “You Hurt My Feelings” without reading my review. I can take it. *eats an entire oversized cookie in duress of no one liking my work*
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
“You Hurt My Feelings” is now playing in select theaters. You can watch the trailer below.