Beth and Don have an enviable marriage. She’s a creative writing teacher for The New School in New York City, with a decent-selling memoir under her belt. He’s a psychiatrist with an office that just screams high fees. He seems like a nice guy, the kind who listens. And he does, regardless of how petty his client’s problems are. She seems like an interested teacher, the kind who wants the best for her students. And she is, regardless of how cavalier she can be with her student’s personal trauma.

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, You Hurt My Feelings mines those traumas, petty or otherwise, for good humor. The main conflict is set in place when Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) overhears Don (Tobias Menzies) talking about how he doesn’t like her new novel. But that’s just the surface. Everyone here lacks confidence and fears the worst. Be it Beth’s sister, Sarah (Michaela Watkins), an interior designer for the wealthy; her husband Mark (Arian Moayed), a stage actor whose greatest claim to fame is a decade-old movie about a pumpkin; or Eliot (Owen Teague), Beth and Don’s adult son who manages a pot shop and writes plays on the side. 

They’re all creative types, surrounded by other creative people, and they’d all be hard-pressed if asked a serious question about each other. Maybe even themselves. Don is slipping so badly as a therapist that he mixes up his client’s issues while one married couple (Amber Tamblyn and David Cross) demands a refund. Beth isn’t any better. Nor is her sister, her sister’s husband, or anyone else in You Hurt My Feelings. They’re all so focused on their insecurities they haven’t the space for everyone else.

And therein lay the humor of You Hurt My Feelings. At one point, Beth confronts Don about her novel, the one he doesn’t like, and Don replies with the usual “What do I know?” defense, following with “I love you more than anything in the world.” To which Beth replies, “What does that have to do with anything?”

Little, when you’ve been married this long/survived this much/invested two years of your life into this project/etc. The beauty of Holofcener’s script is that it never belittles or mocks its characters; it presents them as they are, which makes them feel real. Extra points for not making them stoop to meanness or easy laughs. Instead, every turn is earned, and though the characters on screen may not reflect you, they feel like someone you might know and possibly can’t stand even though you love them with all your heart.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You Hurt My Feelings (2023)
Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener
Produced by Stefanie Azpiazu, Anthony Bregma, Nicole Holofcener, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, Owen Teague, Jeannie Berlin, Amber Tamblyn, David Cross, Zach Cherry
A24, Rated R, Running time 93 minutes, Opens May 26, 2023

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