Nicole Holofcener and Julia Louis-Dreyfus reunite ten years after Enough Said, a mid-life rom-com about secrets and things overheard, and in that way, You Hurt My Feelings feels like familiar territory for the filmmaker-star pair. Holofcener once again writes and directs, and JLD once again stars as a middle-aged woman whose relationship is upended by a secret. In this case, though, You Hurt My Feelings is more pointed and specific, as it is less a comedy of errors and more a comedy of manners, specifically, the little white lies that, over time, become the glue of a long-term relationship. In this case, Beth (JLD) is a writer on the brink of publishing her second book when she finds out her husband, Don (Tobias Menzies), didn’t like it. Beth’s world is upended, from the trust she had in Don to her self-perception to her confidence in her own work.


Feelings can come across as navel-gazing because of how much of it is centered on creative industry and the combination of blind self-confidence and unfailing external validation required to keep going in the face of rejection. Beth is by all markers a successful writer—published—but her mother (Jeannie Berlin, brilliant) nitpicks her first book should have done better. Meanwhile, Beth’s sister, Sarah (Michaela Watkins), is married to Mark (Arian Moayed), a struggling actor and must support him through the vagaries of his career whether she actually thinks he’s good or not. When Mark loses a gig, we see the impact of Sarah’s unflagging support, the way she nurtures him through a low point, saying whatever he needs to hear in the moment to keep his head above water. 

These interactions play out throughout the film in different dynamics. Don is a therapist who doesn’t seem to do very well with his clients. Bickering couple Carolyn and Jonathan (Amber Tamblyn and David Cross) have been in therapy for years and aren’t getting anything out of it, and in other cases, Don confuses patients, offers trite platitudes rather than meaningful insight, and another client ends every session with an insult. And Beth and Don’s son, Elliott (Owen Teague), is an aspiring playwright nearly paralyzed by his parents’ support—a scene in which he confronts them for being too encouraging in his childhood is both funny (what is he really complaining about?!) and sad (he’s suffocating under the weight of expectation). 


But as Beth and Don confront each other and the foundation of seemingly harmless lies scaffolding their relationship, Feelings starts touching on universal relationship truths, such as how accepting one gift you don’t really like to spare someone’s feelings can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy for countless birthdays and holidays to come, or how revealing even an insignificant truth can leave a relationship floundering. Holofcener is a keen observer of relationships, whether it’s married couples, parents and children, siblings, or friends, and here she gives space to all facets of multi-generational relationships happening in the small spaces that make up a life. Feelings is classic Holofcener—intimate, observational, New York, with a granular understanding of mundane human behavior. 

Feelings has plenty of funny moments, enough to tip it more on the “comedy” side of “dramedy”, but it’s the depiction of relationships in meltdown after the most miniscule revelations where Holofcener is her most acute. JLD is brilliant as an artist whose foundation is shattered—though I have to ask why Beth is depending on anyone whose job is to love her first to give her an honest opinion on her work; parents, lovers, and close friends are never good sounding boards—and Menzies is equally good as a content man going through the motions because he’s too comfortable to rock the boat. Beth and Don are not an embittered pair, they have survived decades of marriage with their affection intact (much to Elliott’s chagrin), but they have absorbed so many half-truths they are shocked by even the mildest form of honesty. You Hurt My Feelings is unhurried and unfussy and honest enough to be both funny and a little bit uncomfortable. It’s another incredible collaboration between Nicole Holofcener and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, well worth the ten-year wait.