First off, You Hurt My Feelings is a terrible title for just about any movie. In fact, it’s so lame that I managed to forget it between the time I saw it at a Wednesday matinee at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany and a meeting I had that evening. Someone chided that the film itself must not be very memorable as I looked it up on my phone.
“You Hurt My Feelings, ” I said. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” they replied. “No, that’s the name of the movie,” I noted.
Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Don (Tobias Menzies) are practically joined at the hip. They share the same ice cream cone! The couple reminded me of RichAndAmy, characters in the comic strip Zits, “a couple that have gradually morphed into a single organism.” This, BTW, is cringeworthy to me.
Then Beth, a writer, and her sister/best friend Sarah (Michaela Watkins) overhear a conversation that therapist Don and Sarah’s husband Mark (Arian Moayed) are having.
This leads to a fundamental question about what “telling the truth” means when someone seeks your opinion. It’s a “film about trust, lies, and the things we say to the people we love most.” These characters – Beth, Don, interior designer Sarah, and actor Mark – are all having some doubts about their chosen profession. Beth and Don’s son Eliot (Owen Teague) is likewise stymied by his parents’ expectations about the book he has yet to finish..
I’m interested in the disparity between the critics’ reaction (95% postive on Rotten Tomatoes) and the audience response (64% positive). In the former category was Max Weiss in Baltimore Magazine, who says “It’s wonderful to watch these great actors living out this minor (to us), but major (to them) crisis.” I will suggest that the sense that they all feel a sense of imposter syndrome makes their anxiety very relatable.
The audience summary notes that You Hurt My Feelings “is well-acted and sometimes funny, but it’s also slow — and it can be hard to care about the problems of some fairly unlikable characters.” It’s not uproariously humorous but its comedy is in the recognition that we know people like them. Or maybe we ARE people like them. I didn’t find them particularly unlikable once Beth and Don stopped sharing dessert.
Indeed, my wife and I talked about the basic premise for days afterward. Writer/director Nicole Holofcener has asked the question about whether we are obliged to be candid or be positive, and smartly doesn’t entirelty provide an answer.