May 29, 2023

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies on ‘You Hurt My Feelings’


Nicole Holofcener’s latest comedy “You Hurt My Feelings” received a warm bear hug of a reaction from critics and audiences at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The A24 film, which just opened in theaters, certainly isn’t not going to hurt the Memorial Day box office of Disney’s blockbuster “The Little Mermaid,” but it’s perfect counter programming.

“You Hurt My Feelings” revolves around a long-married couple Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who teaches writing and is an essayist, and Don (Tobias Menzies), a shrink going through a mid-life career crisis. Their marriage hits a snag when Beth overhears a conversation Don is having where he admits he didn’t like her latest book even though he had told her it was good. “The film never doubts or questions their love for each other,” noted Variety. “That’s part of what allows it to explore, with sneaky intricacy, the ways that even a good marriage can hit a snag when it comes to the issue of secrets and lies.”

Louis-Dreyfus and Menzies recently Zoom chatted with the Washington Post’s chief film critic Ann Hornaday, who has been a longtime supporter of the award-winning writer/director Holofcener (“Enough Said,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “Please Give”) and “You Hurt My Feelings.”

Louis-Dreyfus, who earned strong reviews for 2013’s “Enough Said,” talked about what makes Holofcener’s films so smart, funny, and unique. “Nicole is so skilled really, I think genius at exploring character and the minutiae in human relationships. I think that’s what people respond to. Very often, her movies have small behavioral bits and bobs that really speak to much larger issues and this particular film is really a meditation on honesty and truth in relationships. It’s a very good mediation. It’s really funny, and I don’t know, I think there’s nobody like her as a filmmaker.”

‘’I knew her work,” said Menzies (“The Crown”). “I’ve loved her films over the years. This is the first time I sort of seen her writing on the page and yeah, it was everything I hoped it might be. The thing I respond to is the real authentic voice there, real precision about the ideas-who they are, what’s going on. She just thinks very deeply about character and intentions and how that plays out in their behavior. “

Louis-Dreyfus pointed out that one of the Holofcener’s strengths is her ability to straddle the genres of comedy and drama. “That’s another sort of treasure of her filmmaking is that she’s able to do both at once. That’s what you really want as an actor too. In this film, Beth and Don have a very healthy marriage and they’ve been together for years and years and years. So, there’s a lot of trust and respect that has been baked in over a long period of time. So, this horrible, dishonest move that he makes, it’s almost like infidelity and it turns everything so upside down for her. I can understand why that would be if the person you trust of all people turns out not to be telling the truth about something so fundamental about your own self.”

The actress explained she has a “sisterly” bond with the filmmaker. “I feel a kinship with her that’s really played out in all of the work we’ve done together now,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “We have a like-mindedness about material that we respond to about performances, about jokes, about dramatic moments. I think we think very much alike and when we don’t, I’m really interested to know her point of view and likewise. We’re good dance partners. We work well together, and I just like being with her. She’s a nice girl…woman.”

She hopes that “adult thoughtful films” such as “You Hurt My Feelings” don’t disappear from the multiplex.  “Of course, there’s a place for all sorts of films. The entertainment industry is kind of reeling right now in a lot of ways. I don’t need to tell you. So,  I can’t even begin to hypothesize as to why these films are fewer and fewer and fewer and far between except to say that I hope they don’t go away.”

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