You Hurt My Feelings, directed by Nicole Holofcener, is a drama-comedy about the little white lies we tell every day to make each other feel better. The film explores familial relationships in a very realistic way, steering clear of tropes or cliches.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies are masterful as a married couple deeply in love, and both give a warm and incredibly funny performance.
When Beth (Louis-Dreyfus) overhears Don (Menzies) lamenting that he did not enjoy her latest book she is understandably shattered, and she begins to question the trust their relationship is built on. In trying to reconcile his evident love for her with the lies he has fed her she starts to see these white lies we tell the people we love everywhere, in her relationships with her grown-up son, her mother, her sister and brother-in-law, even with her agent.
Nicole Holofcener uses a lot of warm colours and closed framing that gives the characters the majority of the frame to prioritise their conversations over anything else. A lot of the scenes happen while sitting in interiors, giving a quaint, cozy feeling that emphasises the close, loving relationships of these characters. With such close attention being paid to each of their facial expressions and every tone of their voice the actors had to constantly be at the top of their game, and they exceeded the challenge. Julia Louis-Dreyfus brings the perfect blend of humour and emotion to Beth, and is a delight to watch.
The family’s portrayal on screen is refreshingly realistic, with no antagonists or nauseatingly gushy apologies, just normal messy people going about their lives, loving each other and trying to show that love in imperfect ways. The film doesn’t condemn those of us who tell white lies to our loved ones, or even come up with a magic solution to the ethical conundrum of being caught in one. It instead explores how we do this, even unconsciously, in all aspects of our relationships, and, suggests that if we can keep a sense of humour about it we are probably better off.
Michaela Watkins and Arian Moayed as Beth’s sister and brother-in-law had unexpectedly emotional arcs as well, also navigating the ups and downs of creative careers and crises of confidence, while trying to buoy each other up. The way they try so hard to support each other even when they don’t know what to say is reassuringly familiar, and (spoiler alert) the scene where she gifts him socks is more touching than it has any right to be.
Alongside Beth’s crisis of confidence, Don is struggling to come to terms with his ageing, and how it affects his work as a shrink. His shoddy memory for his patients’ problems and lack of solutions for them sounds bleak but is actually full of pathos. The scenes where David Cross (of Arrested Development fame) comes as Jonathan to couples counselling with his wife Carolyn are relentlessly funny, the pair giving a brutally real but still hilarious double-act of marital bitterness.
The emotional moments often have jokes attached, but they’re never undercut. Several heated arguments transition into a moment of reminiscence without ruining the scene, and the movie prides itself on realistic depictions of a relationship.
Seeing the film at the Luna Palace Cinema enhanced the experience, with everyone laughing out loud all throughout the film, and often before the joke had even been made. You Hurt My Feelings is a film made to be seen in the cinema, and the studio clearly realised this as so far it has no plans to appear on any streaming service. For a warm and fuzzy feeling and a lot of laughs, head to your closest cinema and book a ticket.