Julia Louis-Dreyfus Plays to Her Comic Strengths in “You Hurt My Feelings”

Premiered at Sundance Film Festival and now playing in select theatres including The Tara in Atlanta.

Casting Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a neurotic New Yorker hardly seems novel, but the brassy comedienne’s latest starring turn emerges as an enjoyable lark with ample doses of heart and hilarity beneath the hard edges. Writer/director Nicole Holofcener’s dramedy You Hurt My Feelings (B+) features the high-strung star in a winning, old-fashioned comedy of manners with a funny ensemble of lesser-known collaborators also effective in their roles. First world problems are front and center as the delicate characters endeavor to tiptoe around contemporary challenges without getting sucked down an emotional spiral. Louis-Dreyfus plays Beth, an author who struggles with a lack of self-confidence, and her marriage with an unsuccessful therapist portrayed by Tobias Menzies is thrown into a tizzy when she overhears he’s not a fan of her new work of fiction. Before this revelation, the couple had a peaceful but co-dependent relationship, which makes their only child (Owen Teague) uncomfortable. As Beth’s interior designer sister, Michaela Watkins is a hoot, and she helps Beth cope with her angst, possibly because of her own struggles with an underemployed actor husband (Arian Moeyed). Holofcener is skilled with wry, observational humor and captures breakthroughs in the banter, especially in the margins and knowing looks of disbelief between the two sisters. The relationship between Louis-Dreyfus and Watkins as siblings is marvelous to behold as they balance trying to be good people in a brittle world, accentuated by the appearance of their prickly mom, played with dry wit by Jeannie Berlin. Themes about micro-aggressions and the sweet lies lovers tell one another to blunt the pain are highly relatable. Awkward therapy sessions, debates about v-necks and leftovers and frequent attempts to smooth the rough edges of uncomfortable situations caused by other people abound in this talky, remarkably brisk and recommended film.

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