A decade ago, Nicole Holofcener wrote and directed “Enough Said” and cast Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini as the leads. The story was clever and funny, the actors had marvelous chemistry, and I had a smile on my face when it was over. Since then, she’s been directing episodes of TV shows like “Parks and Recreation,” “Lucky Hank,” and “Orange Is The New Black.”
Now, Holofcener is back on the big screen with “You Hurt My Feelings,” a movie about the little lies married couples (and friends) tell each other — and the not-so-little ones. Louis-Dreyfus plays Beth, a writer whose first book sold enough copies to have her take a crack at a second. Everyone who’s read the manuscript tells her it’s great. But one day Beth and her sister Sarah overhear her husband, Don, saying he thinks Beth’s new book stinks and he’s tired of having to read one bad draft after another. This devastates Beth and the dishonesty threatens their longstanding marriage.
Sarah is played by the always-reliable Michaela Watkins, who’s appeared in several other indie projects I’ve loved (e.g. “Sword Of Trust,” “In A World,” and the TV series “Casual”) and seems to add at least a half-dozen new credits to her IMDb page every year. Arian Moayed is good as her actor-wannabe husband.
As Beth’s husband, Don, Tobias Menzies strikes just the right tone as a therapist who has lost all interest in his patients and thus can’t offer them much in the way of advice. He’s particularly awkward with a married couple who clearly hate each other, played with gleeful contempt by Amber Tamblyn and her real-life husband, David Cross. Zach Cherry from “Severance” is another difficult patient Don can’t steer in any helpful direction. I bet there will be plenty of mental health professionals who will nod their heads and roll their eyes through those scenes.
There are two other supporting players I must mention. One is Kenneth Tigar, a veteran character actor with an instantly recognizable face, who plays a patient of Don’s. The other is Jeannie Berlin, last seen in “The Fabelmans,” who’s now Beth’s and Sarah’s mother — and continuing to look and sound even more like Jeannie’s legendary mom, Elaine May.
Along the way, Holofcener lets her cast have space and time to develop chemistry and relatability as she displays how different people react when they discover or dish out the truth. That’s a perfect scenario for Louis-Dreyfus, whose natural talent for infusing her characters with real emotions makes her performances so appealing. It’s especially fun to watch frustration flash across her face in scenes with college students she’s teaching about writing when she discovers none of them have any idea she’s a published author.
“You Hurt My Feelings” has already been in theaters for a couple of weeks, but I was glad to see one near us add an extra showing each day. It will never do the box office of a new Spider-Man or a remade Little Mermaid, yet it does a nice job of filling the niche of romcoms that appeal to humans over forty.
I give it an 9 out of 10. Frankly, I wish Holofcener would make more movies with Louis-Dreyfus and Watkins who (along with her other collaborator, Catherine Keener) fit perfectly into the human jigsaw puzzles she’s so good at creating.