There’s something I must admit. I came to You Hurt My Feelings from a place of bias. As your resident Tobias Menzies fan girl, I wouldn’t miss this for the world. 

Aside from that, though, this movie feels like a diamond in the rough during the summer movie season. We don’t talk about these films often, but sometimes it’s really nice to watch a solid, mid-budget adult drama. No frills. No over-the-top graphics. Just good old-fashioned storytelling. Will You Hurt My Feelings cut through the noise of a busy Memorial Day weekend, or will it fade into a busy box office whirlpool? Read on. 

Jeannie Berlin talks animatedly while sitting in a diner booth.

You Hurt My Feelings follows Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), an author struggling to write a new novel. She needs a smash follow-up after her first book, a memoir, became an unexpected success. Things grow more painful when it becomes clear her agent likes her new work even less than she does. An agent is supposed to like everything, aren’t they? 

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However, when she accidentally overhears her husband (Tobias Menzies) admit he doesn’t like it either, she can’t shake the hit to her confidence. Her ego is bruised. What does truth even mean? Will their marriage survive? Needless to say, she gets in her own head. Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, Owen Teague and Jeannie Berlin co-star in the movie. Nicole Holofcener directs You Hurt My Feelings from her own script.

This tale of creative insecurity is not unique. In fact, it’s a plot capable of extending off the movie screen and entering one’s own life. It’s a simple, intimate look at a couple in a situation that hits home for creative types. It’s an intimately personal piece that rests squarely on the shoulders of these talented performers.

David Cross and Amber Tamblyn sit on a sofa and stare across the camera as they listen intently in You Hurt My Feelings.

In tackling such a personal, relatable story, You Hurt My Feelings is taking a deceptively big swing for the fences. Reality can be a rarity in cinema these days. These aren’t superheroes. These are human beings with all the usual scars, insecurities and baggage. There’s no fantasy here to lose oneself in with this script. 

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Truthfully, a work like this is daunting because there is nowhere to hide. This extends across the movie, from the acting to the writing and even the direction. In an industry packed full of big, sweeping epics, You Hurt My Feelings feels almost too simple. However, in simplicity lies its beauty. 

With that, the talented cast shoulders much of the narrative weight in this character-based family drama. In fact, there isn’t a bad performance in the bunch. Louis-Dreyfus leads the group as Beth. From Seinfeld to Veep, the television legend possesses a bit of a monopoly on playing women who are pros at pretending they have their lives together. However, this is one of the few times where she’s really found herself able to mine the depths of this insecurity. 

Tobias Menzies meanwhile seizes on a brilliant opportunity to shine as Beth’s husband, Don. Like Louis-Dreyfus, he’s spent much of his career on television and has played more than his fair share of troubled but supportive spouses.

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This time out, he is once again playing the supportive spouse. However, it’s in the world Holofcener builds which allows him to find a new level for this often under-appreciated character type. 

Much of this is accomplished thanks to Menzies’ work in therapy scenes opposite his quirky clients, namely real-life couple David Cross and Amber Tamblyn. The three performers play off each other incredibly well. While much of the movie’s humor falls on Tamblyn and Cross, the scenes also build Don’s fragility. Beth isn’t in a great place, but then again, neither is he. Both halves of the couple are struggling.

Tobias Menizes and Julia Louis-Dreyfus stare at the camera in bewilderment as they stand in their living room in You Hurt My Feelings.

Ultimately, You Hurt My Feelings glides for much of the film on its beautiful narrative humanity. At the same time, though, the script’s bare-bones simplicity runs its course. While it drifts through the first two acts, the final act becomes a bit of a slog. 

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The struggle occurs in the difference between finding an ending and finding closure. As the matters of the script are settled, the film continues almost blindly. It’s not focused. To put it simply, it’s just too much. You Hurt My Feelings misses its emotional sweet spot by about 10 minutes. 

I coasted through much of You Hurt My Feelings. The film is a beautiful example of mid-budget adult drama. The sub-genre can be hard to find, but when pulled off correctly, it results in a masterful blend of acting, direction and storytelling. There’s a sweet simplicity to these stories. 

While You Hurt My Feelings is not a perfect movie, the heartfelt humanity here is its selling point. Nicole Holofcener is telling a personal, powerful story, and thanks to well-rounded casting, it comes together beautifully.

You Hurt My Feelings opens in theaters on May 26, 2023.

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Kimberly Pierce
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