“We’re so fortunate,” Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) tells her husband, Don (Tobias Menzies). He’s a therapist with a non-public observe in Manhattan; she teaches artistic writing at The New School. Their son, Elliott (Owen Teague), is completely satisfied, wholesome, and works at a weed dispensary, although Mom isn’t so jazzed about that final half; the store barely has any safety! The long-married couple has simply celebrated an anniversary. Several years in the past, Beth wrote a memoir about her relationship together with her father. It bought extraordinarily effectively. Now she’s engaged on a follow-up ebook, a novel, and… it’s not going so sizzling. Her agent thinks it wants extra warmth (“most cancers, homicide, abuse!”). Beth’s answer is to think about switching brokers.
But hey, all the pieces’s nice for these two middle-aged, upper-middle-class soulmates who nonetheless publicly canoodle in any case these years. Then Beth and her sister, Sarah (Michaela Watkins), overhear Don and her brother-in-law, Mark (Succession‘s Arian Moayed), having a non-public dialog whereas purchasing. The topic is Beth’s new ebook — plainly Don isn’t a fan. He can’t inform her this, nevertheless, as a result of he desires to be supportive. So the husband tells his spouse that it’s fantastic, you’re nailing it, sustain the great work. And now that the spouse is aware of that he’s been mendacity to her, she appears like she will by no means, ever belief a single phrase he says.
There’s a model of this film that, in some worst-timeline universe, is cloying and toothless, touchy-feely and cute, and drops this revelation within the identify of wacky shenanigans at the start is neatly tied up with a pleasant vibrant bow. Or, worse, it offers you the equal of somebody sticking pins in stay bugs, simply to snicker at their squirming.You Hurt My Feelings is most assuredly not that. Because it comes from writer-director Nicole Holofcener, a Sundance O.G. who’s been making most of these spiky, character-driven farces because the mid-’90s, we’re really getting the best-case state of affairs. She’s a cringe-comedy maestro, discovering dry humor in probably the most susceptible, humiliating encounters (we nonetheless can’t watch that scene in Lovely and Amazing where Emily Mortimer asks what her lover thinks of her naked body) with out sacrificing the humanity. Holofcener isn’t chilly or gratuitously merciless. She’s simply brutally sincere, which is why she’s one of many solely folks suited to make a very humorous film about brutal honesty.
Plus she has a collaborator who understands stroll the high quality line between biting and bittersweet. Holofcener and Julia Louis-Dreyfus first labored collectively on 2013’s Enough Said, and it was apparent from the bounce that their comedian sensibilities had been nearly preternaturally in sync. The hope was that this wasn’t a one-off; you wished them to foster a Scorsese-De Niro kind of working relationship, albeit kinder, gentler, and with just a few much less bloody corpses of their wake.
Here, Louis-Dreyfus leans into the character’s prickliness, insecurities — she will get busted shifting her memoir from a again shelf to a bookstore’s entrance desk — and impatience together with her aged mom (Jeannie Berlin is a nationwide treasure!), amongst different less-than-stellar qualities. But not like different memorable JLD characters, Beth isn’t breaking behaviorally unhealthy in an upside-down Upper West Side à la Elaine Benes or a busted Beltway like Selina Meyer. She lives in a recognizable world of long-held grudges, petty squabbles, and seemingly “small” feedback that trigger seismic private catastrophes. The Veep star has all the time excelled at slapstick rage and sputtering aggression, to not point out shock at when others up the delinquent ante; nobody does silent “are you fucking kidding me
You nonetheless get the girl who gave us this displaying her physical-comedy prowess (she actually crawls over her son and smothers him out of safety), and you continue to get somebody who can ship verbal sucker punches. But you additionally get Louis-Dreyfus doing this within the context of a grounded story about what occurs when the road between being supportive of your partner and promoting them an enabling fairy story will get blurry. Menzies, we must always add, isn’t only a scene associate and a sparring associate for his costar; he additionally will get just a few lethal sins to name his personal, notably self-importance and sloth. Like JLD’s character, his therapist is worrying about his diminishing sense of relevance and his capability to maintain doing good work. He’s begun phoning it in on the workplace, to the purpose the place he errors one affected person’s backstory for an additional’s. Even Don’s greatest intentions really feel half-baked. For people who know Menzies from, say, The Crown or as a cad on Outlander, this breezy but befuddled and neurotic flip can be eye-opening.
For all of the enterprise that You Hurt My Feelings orbits round these two — some pot store and writing-class banter, Watkins and Moayed’s personal semi-angsty subplot, David Cross and Amber Tamblyn’s deliriously poisonous double act as Don’s sufferers — the film by no means takes its eyes off the dynamic between these two. It is a primo cringe-comedy, to make certain, however it’s additionally a portrait of a wedding: the no-filter sniping, the consolation stage that lets somebody name a greater half on their bullshit, the shared historical past that turns unhealthy items into inside jokes.
When that mutual feeling of belief breaks down, it may appear cataclysmic. Or it may go from being a possible marital Chernobyl to a different tough patch that will get talked out and smoothed over. What Holofcener has all the time achieved greatest is to make us snicker at these sorts of wince-inducing moments with out sanding down the sides or promoting her characters brief. Along together with her comedic associate in crime, the filmmaker is prepared to bypass the niceties and dig into what’s actual. Then, and solely then, does the duo go for the snicker. Never thoughts Beth and Don. We’re the fortunate ones.