Sundance 2023

You Hurt My Feelings review – dysfunctional family dramedy can’t bring the laughs

Nicole Holofcener’s low-key look at the lies we tell each other to get by strays from universal comedy into far too niche territory

Following a high-flying Julia Louis-Dreyfus as she grapples with the realisation that being married to Tobias Menzies isn't all it's cracked up to be, the latest film from writer-director Nicole Holofcener is low-key in name as well as nature. But hinged as it is on dialogue-heavy plot points that aim to spell out the side effects of marriage and personal relationships, You Hurt My Feelings' reliance on letting the script do all the talking inadvertently gets in the way of a good time.

Unlike with much of A24's output to date, audiences aren’t about to be bowled over by high-stakes action sequences, incredibly nuanced cinematography, or astonishing landscapes that gift-wrap complex narratives into neatly presentable packages. A film for thinkers, taking place largely in living rooms, sidewalks, and coffee shops, the story is instead entrenched in the subtleties of everyday monotony.

Lead characters Beth (Louis-Dreyfus) and Don (Menzies) have an unusually happy marriage that’s decades deep, sharing ice cream and a mutual disdain for the way their son is being treated by his girlfriend. Separately, they are far from remarkable. Beth has had one best-selling book but is struggling to make the foray into fiction, straddling the line between successful writer and overly-zealous wife and mother. Don, on the other hand, is objectively terrible in his professional role as a therapist.

Both characters have the grounds to be interesting but are heinously boring to watch. On paper, discovering the inner workings of their marriage — and the subtle lies they sugarcoat it with — should make for beguiling viewing, but more often it fades into a background of mundane white noise. It’s a film that struggles to command attention as it deals with a dysfunctional family functioning at an absurdly normal level. You Hurt My Feelings is never exactly shooting for belly laughs, but it packs its intellectual humour in so lightly that viewers are likely to miss the jokes altogether.

In the incomparable canon of A24 work to date, You Hurt My Feelings airs mostly on the side of forgettable. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is never going to outright miss when it comes to comedy, but the narrative on offer here only allows for a certain amount of creative wriggle room. Relationships are tough, sure. But we see enough of that at home.

You Hurt My Feelings was screened as part of the Sundance Film Festival 2023. A UK release date is yet to be announced.

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