You Hurt My Feelings is so tender with the characters that it hurts.
Published on May 18, 2023
Rating 2.5 /5
Marriage can be a tough experience, even for the most loving couples. Minor concerns may crop up as a relationship progresses and the love is there. These concerns won’t inspire divorce but will lead to mildly heated exchanges where honesty might be the best medicine. That’s the small goal this movie sets, and while it does weave likable characters, it also conjures a forgettable tale burdened by its own fragility and passivity.
The couple at the center of this story is the author Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and the therapist Don (Tobias Menzies). They love each other and haven’t tired of their love. What they have tired of is their careers. Beth’s latest book has failed to attract a publisher after two years of work, and the many years of holding therapy sessions have left Don with an empty well of info. A feuding couple, played by David Cross and Amber Tamblyn, have become so aggressive that Don is visibly tired of their plight. Beth becomes so desperate for notoriety in her amateur creative writing class that she’ll stop by bookstores after class to push her books to the front tables.
Their relationship hits a rocky patch when Beth overhears Don talking about how he doesn’t like Beth’s book she’s in the middle of pitching. Don relays this information to his best brother-in-law Mark (Arian Moayed), and it’s also overheard by Beth’s sister Sarah (Michaela Watkins). Given her initial gag reflex, Beth isn’t sure how to process this information. She’s always valued her husband, who is a bit more brutal than his usual loving self. All that’s needed to patch this up is one good conversation which the film eventually gets around to.
In the meantime, the film busies itself with plenty of relatable and dry moments of everyday situations. In this regard, the players assembled are all in top form. Louis-Drefus and Menzies engross themselves so hard into these roles. Yet there’s rarely a moment where compelling scenes with dialogue are so natural for the mundanity of it all. It’s enough to make one pine for the explosive back and forth-between the supporting players of David Cross and Amber Tamblyn. Even the dead-pan delivery of Zach Cherry becomes more interesting for his harboring of much nastier feelings for his therapist.
The enjoyment of this type of film comes more out of the understanding of nature given to the central characters. They’re New Yorkers who are somewhat open with their narcissism but never have much satire on their perspectives. Their realization of more significant issues in the world only comes off like a mild grounding of their behavior, where all it takes for them to get down from their high horse is an admittance that climate change will destroy the planet. Rarely is anything all the challenging presented for these characters in a film that’s more interested in watching them place band-aids on their egos than coming to a greater understanding of the world around them. It’s why there’s only a tiny sense of pomposity cornered when Beth starts wishing she had a history of more abuse to make her memoirs more compelling.
You Hurt My Feelings is so tender with the characters that it hurts. It hurts that a dramedy such as this becomes borderline pretentious with its accuracy of emotions in a relationship. There’s a good premise here, but it meanders about so much in its search for charming scenes that it turns up less than one might expect.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.