You Hurt My Feelings movie review: examining relationships through humor and heart

A24 Films' You Hurt My Feelings premieres May 26, 2023.
A24 Films' You Hurt My Feelings premieres May 26, 2023. /

You Hurt My Feelings stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus (You People) as Beth, a novelist, and Tobias Menzies (The Crown) as Don, a therapist, two halves of a couple living in New York City. Their long-standing marriage is suddenly upended when Beth overhears her husband giving his honest reaction to her latest book. The film is produced by FilmNation Entertainment and Likely Story. It is being distributed to US audiences by studio, A24, which picked up the comedy-drama at the 2021 American Film Market. The film then premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah on January 22, 2023.

This is Dreyfus’ second collaboration with Director Nicole Holofcener since Enough Said in which she starred alongside late actor James Gandolfini.

You Hurt My Feelings showcases the reality of building trust and honesty in a relationship.

You Hurt My Feelings
A24 Films’ You Hurt My Feelings premieres May 26, 2023. /

Dreyfus’ casting was smart as I couldn’t see any other actress embodying this role. She puts on a performance that is equal parts humorous and dramatic. The movie exhibited much more humor than I expected before purchasing my ticket. With a small ensemble cast, watching the events of the movie unfold felt very intimate, almost voyeuristic in a way. Dreyfus’ reaction to the events of the premise occurring, which leads to her eventual breakdown after overhearing Don’s thoughts on her book, sets the tone for the rest of the film.

Holofcener is known for her realistic approach to storytelling, which is evident in her previous work (Walking and Talking, Friends with Money) and this film lives up to the expectation of intimate character studies. It essentially explores the intricacies of different relationships, whether they are familial, parental, academic, or romantic. While the film centers around the relationship between Beth and Don, other relationship dynamics abound such as between Beth’s sister Sarah (Michaela Watkins), an interior designer, and her husband Mark (Arian Moayed), an anxious actor. Another character with a strong presence in the film is Beth and Sarah’s mother, Georgia (Jeannie Berlin), who has to accept that her life is fast-moving and changing around her, even if she doesn’t want to accept it.

Seeing how Don interacts with his work also gave more insight into how he approaches conflict. Through a series of not-so-positive encounters with his repeat patients, with one couple expecting a refund of the money spent on their sessions, a bunch of imperfect moments slowly lead to an eye-opening sub-narrative of taking control of your own life and not leaving it up to others to help put the broken pieces back together.

We see how Beth interacts with her students as a writing instructor, listening to their “real life” yet off-putting stories to use as material for their work, Beth doesn’t bat an eye at making sure her students know that she’s listening to their every word and encouraging them, even though none of them had reciprocated the kindness by reading her already-published memoir before signing up for her class. This bleeds into Beth’s relationship with her son. The couple engages in a seemingly loving but co-dependent relationship, that upsets their young adult son Elliott who lives out of the home, but not out of reach, and even says that he feels like a third wheel.

At the same time, his current relationship with his girlfriend becomes a thing of the past and forces him to be introspective about his life and confronts Beth and Don later in the movie, asking why Beth failed to inform him of his true capabilities as a young boy. Even with the inclusion of such topics as well as a therapist lead character, there’s nothing truly psychological about this film as it deals with the social implications of not being truthful in relationships and quite honestly pokes fun at the therapist-patient relationship trope, which I enjoyed.

Watching the movie almost felt like watching a play, where each scene showcases a different slice of a relationship. Though it is not overwhelming and Holofcener subtly ends the movie by returning to focus on the main couple in question. It was a fun watch and warranted another hour to delve into even more. It would’ve been nice to gain more backstory from each of the relationships. It can help others assess what does and doesn’t work in their relationships. Do I need to tell my partner? Can this wait until something serious happens? Should I be upfront with them now? These are all questions the movie asks as Olivia begins to unexpectedly lose what she holds dear just like she lost her friend.

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The relationship comedy-drama, You Hurt My Feelings, premiered in select theaters on Friday, May 26.