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YOU HURT MY FEELINGS: 3 ½ STARS. “small movie about big topics”

“You Hurt My Feelings,” a new Julia Louis-Dreyfus relationship dramedy now playing in theatres, is about the little lies we tell one another that can balloon into much bigger deals.

Louis-Dreyfus is Beth, a memoirist and writing teacher, struggling with the reactions to her second book. As a first reader, her therapist husband Don (Tobias Menzies) has studied each of the drafts of the book, and always told her how much he loves the writing.

Her agent Sylvia (LaTanya Richardson Jackson), however, thinks the novel needs to touch on more hot button topics and needs a complete rewrite. “There’s lots of new voices,” she says. “Refugees, cancer, murder, abuse.” Feeling she is an “old voice” in a rapidly changing world, Beth is devastated.

Meanwhile Don is having trouble connecting with his patients and their 23-year-old son Elliott (Owen Teague) is having a crisis of confidence.

Into this maelstrom of self-doubt comes a cutting remark that sends Beth into a deeper funk. By accident she overhears Don talking to a friend about her book, and he doesn’t like it. “It’s no good,” he says.

“I’m never going to be able to look him in the face again,” Beth says.

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, “You Hurt My Feelings” has a very “Seinfeld-ian” co-dependency premise. It often feels like nothing is happening—“A show about nothing!”—but within the carefully observed interactions are thought-provoking ideas about how relationships work.

So often, relationship dramas are about infidelity. This one is about a fidelity of a sort, the kind broken with good intentions.

It’s about the fine line between lying and encouraging, sparing someone’s feelings vs. being supportive. Don explains to Beth that he didn’t lie exactly, but that he was trying to be encouraging, even though he didn’t love the book. It isn’t until Beth realizes that she has done the same thing in her relationships with her son and sister (Michaela Watkins) that she begins to understand her husband’s sentiments.

Holofcener keeps the story low-key, focusing on the intersection of honesty and ego between longtime relations. It’s a small, but very human story of the way we interact, brought to vivid life by a tremendous cast, led by a terrific Louis-Dreyfus. She is fragile and raucous, anxious and hilarious, but always relatable.

“You Hurt My Feelings” is a small movie about big topics like honesty, insecurity and how we protect the ones we love, for better and for worse.

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