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You Hurt My Feelings Sundance Review: Well-Meaning but Reductive Relationship Drama

You Hurt My Feelings

Nicole Holofcenter has made a name for herself writing and directing extremely insightful human dramas, along with earning an Academy Award nomination for co-writing the Melissa McCarthy crime comedy Can You Ever Forgive Me? Her newest film, You Hurt My Feelings, seems to be a chip off the old block — a low-key character study led by some powerhouse performers — but it lacks the key element of humanity to make it work.

The movie follows a writer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who begins to question her committed marriage to her therapist husband (Tobias Menzies) when she overhears him say that he didn’t actually like her latest book. It’s a simple, wholesome marriage dramedy, but Holofcenter frustratingly refuses to elevate it beyond the barest simplicity.

This is the type of romantic comedy that thinks it’s being witty and cutesy to the point of having an over-inflated ego of its own intelligence. Unfortunately, the film’s perspective on romance is frustratingly archaic, with its supposedly insightful “revelation” being something that most couples have done for years at this point.

Also Read: Rye Lane Sundance Review: A Vibrant and Refreshing Romantic Comedy

The reductive message of this movie is simply baffling. Although there is no denying that the film is well-intentioned, its message is shockingly simple, saying that lies hurt more than the truth. Of course, the movie leaves no room for any type of ambiguity, and while this message is true in menial cases like this, it fails to acknowledge the complex world in which real-life relationships exist.

As such, we are propelled on a journey with our characters in which they’re following each other trying to figure out what each of them *really* thinks about the other. Ultimately, the film gives us little reason to care. At no point does it feel like there are any stakes. The movie constantly reminds us of how “adorable” the couple is together that we never believe this white lie is a legitimate threat to their relationship.

That being said, perhaps the most frustrating thing about You Hurt My Feelings is that its success hinges on the performance of Louis-Dreyfus, who is actively bad here. It feels as if she’s really straining to get through the script, which is concerning given that this is meant to be a breezy romantic comedy. On the other hand, Menzies feels like he’s sleepwalking through the movie on autopilot, with only a handful of scenes in which he feels authentic.

The best performances come from David Cross and Amber Tamblyn, who have minimal screen time. As a couple receiving ineffective marriage counseling from Menzies’s therapist, Cross and Tamblyn get the only legitimately funny moments in the film, hurling nasty one-liners at each other that manage to elicit a quick laugh. The rest of the supporting cast — including Arian Moayed, Michaela Watkins, Owen Teague, and Zach Cherry — are all disappointingly underused.

You Hurt My Feelings is a massive disappointment considering the talent involved in front of and behind the camera. Sure, there’s nothing disagreeable about it, but the movie’s exceedingly simple premise and themes will leave viewers feeling more frustrated than they will be diverted.

You Hurt My Feelings is playing at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 19-29 in-person in Park City, UT and January 24-29 online.

Rating: 5/10

5 Out of 10

Also Read: The Starling Girl Sundance Review: An Uneven Commentary on Religious Fundamentalism

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Written by Sean Boelman

Film Critic and member of the CACF.