Writer and director Nicole Holofcener delivers another win in a sharp and perceptive story about our insecurities and the little white lies we tell to protect the people we love. Her newest film, “You Hurt My Feelings,” explores the occasional dilemma facing us in relationships: when is it better to lie than tell the truth? The result is a deliciously entertaining comedy that taps into something recognizably human.
The main story focuses on Beth (played by the lovely Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a semi-successful writer working on her new book. Her previous memoir was a mediocre success, although none of her students have read it. She’s laden with self-doubt and worries that her agent doesn’t think the new book is worth publishing.
Meanwhile, her husband, Don (Tobias Menzies), is a psychotherapist who isn’t helping anybody. Wrestling with aging and uncertainty, he assesses his work’s relevance to his patients.
The bombshell of the film is not an affair but a confession that disrupts their marriage. Beth unexpectantly overhears Don confessing that he doesn’t like her new book. He’s supportive and encouraging as he reads over the drafts but doesn’t like any of them.
Beth is totally devastated. She knows she’s probably an unexceptional writer, and her husband’s a crummy therapist. But the realization that he doesn’t really like her work is a blow to the gut, leaving Beth questioning her trust in him.
While tangled up in Don’s betrayal, Beth excessively showers their 20s-something son, Elliott, with encouragement, believing the extra enthusiasm will motivate him to actually get good at something. Their family dynamics are amusingly relatable, including Elliott’s disgust with his parents’ constant need to share food with one another in public.
Blended with superb pacing by editor Alisa Lepselter, the film delivers a smashingly good adult comedy you rarely see in theaters anymore. Holofcener supplies endless laughs, including cuts of David Cross and Amber Tamblyn as a quarreling couple that Don is treating quite unsuccessfully.
Although there are big problems in the world, “You Hurt My Feelings” has a lesson for all of us: It’s OK to fret over the little intrusive troubles in our lived-in bubbles. Sometimes momentary support and a bit of Botox are all we need to turn a bad day into a good life.