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Sundance Film Festival Review: ‘You Hurt My Feelings’ is Effective Yet Familiar Territory for Nicole Holofcener

There’s a kind of mellow adult comedy that we rarely see these days. Once upon a time, You Hurt My Feelings wouldn’t stand out like it now does. Even at the Sundance Film Festival, a place where a movie like this would be commonplace, it has a unique presence. So, while the scarcity of this sort of a flick helps make it seem distinct, it’s still an entertaining little effort that charms more than enough to warrant a recommendation.

You Hurt My Feelings is more or less what you expect from Nicole Holofcener. If it’s not quite the winner that Enough Said was, it’s on the level of a Friends with Money or a Please Give. Holofcener is an expert at this sort of a thing by now, and it shows in the unhurried ease with which the narrative unfolds.

Novelist Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and therapist Don (Tobias Menzies) have what appears to be an ideal marriage. They’re still affectionate, even if that sort of puzzles their son Eliot (Owen Teague). At the same time, they’re both at career crossroads. Beth’s new novel isn’t being met with huge praise from her agent, so she gives it to Don to read, even though he seems unable to break through with any of his patients. One day, while both are out with friends, they wind up in the same store, without the other one’s knowledge. There, Beth overhears Don say that he isn’t a fan of her writing, shattering everything she knew about her union.

Armed with this newfound discovery, Beth and her sister Sarah (Michaela Watkins) begin to pour over just what it all means. As she’s doing that, Don continues to struggle with his patients. Is something going on with him? Could Beth be overreacting? Perhaps both things can be true at the same time?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus does very nice work here. Tobias Menzies does too, but Holofcener knows what to do more with her than him. Menzies makes the most of a thinner part, at least, though Owen Teague is basically wasted, as is Michaela Watkins. Louis-Dreyfus fares the best of the lot, especially in terms of the chemistry she has with her co-stars. The rest of the cast includes Jeannie Berlin, David Cross, Amber Tamblyn, and more.

Writer/director Nicole Holofcener is on friendly ground, mostly for the better. You Hurt My Feelings isn’t like a greatest hits track, butt it’s easily recognizable as her work. The above titles, alongside films like Lovely and Amazing, as well as Walking and Talking, they’re what she does. If you dislike them, nothing here will change your mind. If you’re a fan, however, you’ll be largely delighted to see her in action once again.

You Hurt My Feelings is exactly what you think it is. As a low-key Sundance effort from an underrated filmmaker, it hits right in the center of being rock solid. Nothing here is bad, but little here is great. That might be less than we’ve had from Holofcener before, but it still makes this one of the better offerings at the fest this year…

SCORE: ★★★


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Written by Joey Magidson

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