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Film Reviews by Lisa Blanck
You Hurt My Feelings
| Monday, 05.22.2023, 02:53 AM |   (299 views)

You Hurt My Feelings (2023)

Director Nicole Holofcener's new film, You Hurt My Feelings, is filled with characters with whom you might identify.  A novelist, still passionate about her craft, having trouble getting her new work picked up by a publisher.  A therapist who believes he has stopped caring about his patients progress.  
A businesswoman, forced to shop for clients she abhors.  A woman of advanced years, becoming slightly sprinkled with dementia, all the while insisting there's nothing wrong.  A young man 'helicoptered' by his parents for his whole life, realizing that their unwavering praise may have actually stunted his development.  A middle-aged actor still waiting for that breakout role. 

The film isn't about big ideas and huge family strife.  It focuses instead on the small white lies that weave through our relationships.  The lies that keep the peace in the family, with complete honesty not always being the best policy.

The film is shot in NYC in what appears to be a 10-block radius near Union Square.  It takes us into real locations.  We sit in on Beth's creative writing class at The New School for Social Research and listen to her white lies to her students that their unsellable writing ideas have promise.  

We slip into Paragon Sports, because when depressed, Mark indulges his sock shopping obsession.  Holofcener's characters, Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Don (Tobias Menzies), Sarah (Michaela Watkins) and Mark (Arian Moayed) are all innately likeable, regardless of their foibles.  They feel real, as if we could bump into them in a coffeeshop.

Beth, a successful essayist, is looking to get her new book published, but is having difficulty getting it to that point.  Don, her therapist husband, keeps telling her that her book is wonderful, and maybe she just needs a new publisher, but this is not how he really feels about her work.  Sarah, the disgusted decorator and Beth's sister, is married to Mark, a struggling actor.  Beth and Don's son, Eliot (Owen Teague) works in a pot dispensary.   Beth wishes he would aim higher, but he seems lacking drive.  Some of Don's patients have begun questioning his technique and wondering if their years of therapy are just wasted money because nothing ever changes in their relationships. 

Beth and Don's relationship is so close that, much to the obvious disgust of their son, they consume food off each others plates, and share licks off a single ice cream cone.  Son Eliot is always left feeling like the odd-man out, but has never told them this - a white lie by omission.  A white lie regarding Beth's book, though unintended, knocks her for a loop, causing her to question her relationship with Don.  

Georgia (Jeannie Berlin) has a close relationship with her daughters, Beth and Sarah.  She also hoards Tupperware cannisters in her kitchen cabinets, keeping them pristine and  unused, much to her daughter's aggravation and eye-rolling.  They know something is going on with Mom, but don't want to upset their applecart by examining the issues. 

Mark loses his acting gig and keeps threatening to quit the business, though Sarah keeps emotionally supporting him and telling him how good he is.  Is he?  We don't know.  What we do know is that his last big role was quite a few years ago.  

So all white lies.  We all say them to avoid hurting people. 'Yes, you look great in that dress'.  'Yes, you can grow up to be anything you want to be'.   ' Yes, I love that piece of jewelry, that sweater' - which is a plot line in You Hurt My Feelings with more than a hint of The Gift Of The Magi attached to it.  Does gifting the 20th Pandora charm to someone mean you really know the recipient wants it, or is the giver just taking the easy way out?   

Like Holofcener's previous films, You Hurt My Feelings examines small everyday struggles, succeeding in keeping them contained within their framework.  There aren't any villains here, just delightful humans working it out, day to day.  And that's what we love about them. 

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor and Movie Reviewer for In  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for WESH2 News and WKMG News.  She also edits on-air promotional spots for Matter Of Fact, a highly-rated nationally syndicated news and information program.  For more than 30 years she has covered the Florida Film Festival and the World Peace Film Festival, with additional experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events at MTV Networks.  She was previously a columnist for the Focus In Newspaper.

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