To Tell the Truth?

24 May

They say there aren’t movies made for adults anymore. They also say that when such movies are made, they’re not being released in movie theaters anymore. 

Well, “they” should check out You Hurt My Feelings, which arrives in theaters at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, opposite such competition as Fast X and Disney’s wholly unnecessary live-action remake of The Little MermaidYou Hurt My Feelings is a movie that fits the bill for that segment of the movie-watching public that likes films oriented to more “grown-up” audiences.

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, the Oscar-nominated Can You Ever Forgive Me?), and set in the same parts of New York City where Woody Allen often sets his own films, You Hurt My Feelings stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Beth, a writer and teacher, who overhears her otherwise supportive husband, Don (Tobias Menzies, The Crown), criticizing her latest work. Shocked by this disclosure, Beth has a crisis of confidence, thinking she’s not as good as she thinks she is. “I am not going to be able to look him in the face again,” she tells her sister, Sarah (Michaela Watkins, excellent here as always). 

As Beth starts to pull away from him without explanation, Don, a therapist, begins to question his own abilities and his effectiveness in helping his patients. He is particularly unnerved by a hostile couple (amusingly played by real-life couple David Cross and Amber Tamblyn) who want Don to refund their money because, they say, Don hasn’t helped them in the years they’ve been coming to see him.

What does this mean for Beth and Don’s marriage? Can she still trust him? Should she? If they can’t be honest with each other, what does that mean? 

For Holofcener, the subject matter is rich territory, and her script often nails the way adults — and couples, in particular — speak with each other. The little white lies they tell to maintain marital harmony, the ruts they sometimes fall into, and all that. (Or so I’ve been told.)

The lead role was written specifically for Louis-Dreyfus (who The New York Times recently described as Holofcener’s “cinematic alter ego”), and, no surprise, it fits her like a glove. Louis-Dreyfus gives a subtle, lived-in performance that’s her second notable film work this year (the other being You People, a very different kind of movie). This is the second time she and Holofcener have worked together (Enough Said was the first), and I look forward to seeing what they do next. 

The cast also includes Arian Moayed (Succession), Jeannie Berlin (The Night Of), and Sarah Steele (The Good Fight) … but, notably, not Catherine Keener, who has starred in every other film Holofcener has directed. I guess the two are on a break.

You Hurt My Feelings is a generally good film with some great moments — any time Cross and Tamblyn are on screen is a highlight, for example. But unfortunately, those moments don’t all add up to a larger whole, and consequently, the film never quite reaches the heights of some of Holofcener’s other, better work (such as Friends with Money). The premise is stretched a little too thin, so even though the film only runs 93 minutes, it feels longer than that.

Still, this is an enjoyable film that should appeal to grown-ups of a certain age who want to see a movie with emotional fireworks, not loud, flashy pyrotechnics. Those folks should see this one in a theater so there will be other films like it.

I’m giving You Hurt My Feelings a B.

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