You Hurt My Feelings
“Rob the average man of his life-illusion, and you rob him of his happiness at the same stroke.” Henrik Ibsen, The Wild Duck
Total honesty is the challenge of the Wild Duck and so too of Nicole Holofcener’s You Hurt My feelings, a dramedy that treats honesty as something that may not always be virtue. When Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) overhears her husband, Don (Tobias Menzies), say he doesn’t like her new novel, she is speechless with despair.
Writer/director Nicole Holofcener has carefully satirized honesty the way Ibsen did, whether for the ones closest to us have an obligation to be candid or positive, as manifested by our societal urge now to nurture a positive culture, where, for instance, constantly praising a child even when the work is not meritorious. The question this drama poses is whether or not this approach is healthy. The power of positivity may be a misguided societal strategy.
Many of the film’s characters face the same dilemma: total honesty, for instance, about the questionable acting quality of friend could devastate him, the same about the fledgling playwright son, whom Beth praises before he even hands her his draft. Holofcener never makes it feel like a didactic lesson about honesty in relationships. It’s an organic drama where what happens is natural, and in this case a puzzle about the right way to act.
I am always intrigued by Ibsen’s Wild-Duck challenge or claim of the ideal, where Gregers Werle expounds the virtue of complete honesty, regardless of the consequences. Is everyone entitled to a basic lie to remain happy and healthy?
For me, the jury is still out as I continue to navigate among the egos of family and friends to give the right honest estimate. You Hurt My Feelings is an enjoyable romp around the egos of white-privileged New Yorkers touching on the questionable need for a basic positive lie about ourselves.
You Hurt My Feelings
Director: Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said)
Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Run Time: 1h 33m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and hosts Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM. Contact him at JohnDeSando52@gmail.com