Nicole Holofcener’s screenplays frequently explore the concept of perspective, whether it be through the lens of a romantic comedy like “Enough Said,” the justification of fraud like “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” or the way in which a different point-of-view transforms a narrative like “The Last Duel.” You Hurt My Feelings is the writer and director’s most recent film. She continues to explore viewpoints, albeit with a much lighter and gentler style that is profoundly humorous and will relate with anybody who has ever been forced to rely on a white lie.
Beth, an author struggling with her latest book and concerned that it, like her last book, would not get the attention it deserves, is portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who also stars in the show. Similarly, her husband Don, played by Tobias Menzies, is a therapist who doubts how well he does his work. Sarah, Beth’s sister, is an interior designer played by Michaela Watkins. Her husband, Mark, played by Arian Moayed, is an actor exhausted with the runaround of trying to be an actor. Sarah is tired of buying stupid crap for people who are too rich to have good taste. Mark is tired of trying to be an actor.
Through these and other links, Holofcenter is investigating how little white lies can either strengthen or weaken the bonds between people. For instance, Holofcener demonstrates how trust and honesty may shift the dynamics of these relationships by following Don throughout several of his treatment sessions. During this period, we are with Don. For instance, Carolyn and Jonathan (roles played by Amber Tamblyn and David Cross) have seen Don for years, but nothing has changed between them.
Eventually, they decide to be honest with each other and accept that he is not doing anything to improve their relationship. Similarly, Jim (Zach Cherry), one of Don’s newest clients, takes Don’s incorrect advice, and then, at the end of their meetings, mutters about how ineffective Don is. Don’s advice was accepted. We find that honesty in these interactions can be beneficial for both Don and his patients in some instances, but in other instances, it can be detrimental to both Don and his patients.
However, this concept’s most significant investigation occurs between Beth and Don. Without giving too much away about the trigger event, let’s just say that at this juncture one of the characters overhears something that the other should not have heard. This moment occurs almost at the end of the first act because Holofcener allows us to live with these characters, getting to know them in simple moments such as during class or volunteering, before upending these dynamics through this reveal that might seem minor but would seem earth-shattering for those involved in the situation.
The beauty of Holofcener’s tone is that it isn’t rushed or full of big stakes, yet it still has a rich and complicated collection of viewpoints to delve into, making the tone so beautiful. As was the case with their previous project together, Enough Said, Louis-Dreyfus is a fantastic fit for Holofcener’s aesthetic. These two complement one another wonderfully, and Louis-Dreyfus can display a more subdued aspect of her crazy sense of humour while working together. Both Louis-Dreyfus and Menzies have great chemistry together, and due to their closeness, their characters’ only child Elliott (Owen Teague) frequently has the impression that he is an unwanted third wheel in the relationship.
However, what makes Holofcener’s picture feel so unique is its low-key and understated approach, which is prevalent throughout You Hurt My Feelings. This is not the type of comedy typically produced these days; instead of concentrating on ludicrous scenarios or abrupt changes in the narrative, the movie takes time to tell its story.
Instead, this is primarily about a group of middle-aged men and women debating whether or not it is acceptable to tell white lies to one another in the context of a romantic relationship. You Hurt My Feelings can become an impactful and approachable comedy of light faults and poor choices since the stakes are not as high as in other comedies.
You Hurt My Feelings is the type of film that serves as a reminder of why Holofcener is one of the best writers of comedies working in the industry today. It also serves as a reminder that Holofcener’s ability to write films with such small consequences can often feel like a massive achievement, as these situations feel honest and human and are wholly earnest.
You Hurt My Feelings falls in line with the other comedic directing work that Holofcener has done. Still, we need more films like these, which lighten the insignificant details of our lives, the absurdity of failing to do what’s right, and the innate humour that can be found in the ordinary occurrences of life.
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