March 20, 2023

Sundance Film Festival 2023 Review – You Hurt My Feelings (2023)


It’s ten years since Nicole Holofcener and Julia Louis-Dreyfus combined their talents for Enough Said, a mature rom-com that captured hearts on the 2013 festival circuit. At long last, they’re back together for another comedy, again both written and directed by Holofcener and with middle aged relationships very much under the microscope.

In You Hurt My Feelings, writer Beth (Louis-Dreyfus) has been working for years on a novel, the follow-up to her memoir, while teaching a group of would-be authors. Her therapist husband Don (Tobias Menzies) is a constant support, reading her numerous drafts and giving her endless encouragement. So she can’t believe her ears when she overhears him admit to her brother-in-law Mark (Arian Moayed) that he actually doesn’t like her new book. It feels like a betrayal of their committed, loving marriage. At the same time, Don is having a hard time at work as he starts to lose interest in his patients’ issues – and they’ve started to notice.

Holofcener presents us with her customary group of imperfect characters – Beth admits she lives in a “small, narcissistic world” – with their insecurities and, yes, narcissism and takes huge pleasure in poking fun at them, sometimes gentle, sometimes barbed. Either way, it’s witty and full of moments that will make you smile at the very least, and more often than not laugh out loud. When it comes to getting that reaction, the cast and script come together beautifully. But there’s something fundamentally missing from the film that makes the laughter a touch hollow.

At the heart of it is a very small idea, one that in the context of Beth and Don’s marriage – or any other relationship – is minor and really not substantial enough to sustain a full length feature. So Holofcener has piled on the sub-plots, firstly the one about Don’s work problems and what could be loosely described as a mid-life crisis and then a second about their son Eliot (Owen Teague, also at Sundance in Eileen), the break-up of his relationship and his own writing efforts. It’s actually Don’s story which is genuinely interesting: those patients of his that we see are mini highlights in their own right and he’s reached a stage in his life that has a genuine ring of truth about it. There’s potential for his narrative to expand further but sadly we’re not taken there.

With his tired eyes, Menzies is an excellent counterpoint to the more temperamental Louis-Dreyfus, but the stand-out performance comes from Michaela Watkins as Beth’s sister Sara. A interior designer with clients as problematic as the ones going to Don for therapy, she manages to navigate marriage almost effortlessly. Together, they all make for a near-perfect comedy cast. If only they’d been blessed with a script with as much substance as style.


Comedy | Sundance Film Festival, premiered on 23 January 2023 | Dir. Nicole Holofcener | Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Owen Teague, Arian Moayed.