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Michaela Watkins and Arian Moayed on Being Married in You Hurt My Feelings

May 28, 2023


You Hurt My Feelings is one of those delightful films in which you could honestly envision a whole movie about each character, and would want to watch it. Even tangential characters, like the couple who want a refund for years of unsuccessful therapy (a hilarious David Cross and Amber Tambyln) are interesting and fun enough, in their own way. But it’s the main four characters of Nicole Holofcener’s new instant classic that obviously stand out the most here. They’re delightful company in one of the best films of the year.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Beth, a writer whose new literary efforts are frequently rejected by her publisher. Her husband, Don (Tobias Menzies), is a therapist who is beginning to doubt that he’s actually effective or good at his job. Beth’s sister, Sarah (Michaela Watkins) is an interior designer for the frequently indecisive and picky upper echelon clientele of New York. Her husband, Mark (Arian Moayed) is an insecure actor attempting to land and keep a new part.
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These are legitimately kind and fun people to be around, and things take a fascinating turn when Beth and Sarah overhear Don and Mark discussing Beth’s new book. Despite telling her time and time again how much he loves her writing, Don confesses to Mark that he actually hates it and doesn’t have the heart to tell Beth. It’s a little white lie that permeates the soft surfaces of self-doubt, and punctures the seeming tranquility of their relationship to both hilarious and enlightening effect.

Watkins and Moayed spoke with MovieWeb about their married characters, whether they have a healthy relationship despite the insecurities, and the charms of Holofcener, the same filmmaker behind such indie comedy classics as Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, Friends with Money, and Please Give.

Michaela Watkins Is More Than Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Sister

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Watkins actually has a funny history with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the chameleonic comic genius from Seinfeld, Watching Ellie, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and Veep. Watkins starred on two of those series, getting one of her first big breaks on The New Adventures of Old Christine as a woman with an uncanny resemblance to Louis-Dreyfus’ character. They also starred together a decade ago in one of Holofcener’s sweetest films, Enough Said. So it’s fitting that they’re playing brother and sister here.

Watkins seems a natural fit for Holofcener. She seems like an amalgam of Catherine Keener (Holofcener’s regular lead actress until 2018) and Louis-Dreyfus herself, but remains entirely her own person with incredible performances in the series Casual, Trophy Wife, and The Unicorn. Like Louis-Dreyfus, Holofcener knew that she wanted to work with her again after Enough Said in 2013.

“That movie is so wonderful,” said Watkins. “I love it so much, so I was particularly sad when the scene [was cut down] — I introduced James Gandolfini and Julia’s characters to each other in it. We were doing this big party shot, and apparently we didn’t get enough coverage correctly. So the scene didn’t edit together properly, and so it got really, really cut down. And this is why Nicole Holofcener is a hero.”

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Watkins explained:

I love her. I’m a huge fan of her movies. This has never happened with a director. She wrote me like an epic email about why the scene was not as written, why it was just going to be a short thing in the final film and that she had tried every which way from Sunday to get it edited. And she said, “We’re going to work together again.” And you’re always like, first of all, nobody writes that email; directors don’t write that when you get cut down. Secondly, nobody makes good on it. And she made so good on it.

It’s a wonderful and performance, and she just naturally seems like Louis-Deyfus’ sister anyway (though the performance transcends that). “She has an older sister and a younger sister,” said Watkins. “She’s very close with her younger sister; I’m really close with my older sisters. We both speak ‘Nicole.’ I think that’s why we’re all here, and it just was natural. I would like to say it was hard, and all the blood sweat and tears that go with making a movie, but this was so easy. It was like buttah, as they say. It was just easy, breezy, and fun. Fun, fun, fun.”

Arian Moayed and Watkins Embody a Great Couple

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While Watkins’ relationship with Louis-Dreyfus is amazingly charismatic (especially when the characters are with their mother, or volunteering at the church), her relationship with Arian Moayed’s character, Mark, is sweeter and perhaps more interesting. Mark is a charming guy, but he’s like origami — complex and attractive, but a hard rain away from total collapse. Mark and Sarah complement each other really well, though. He may be the most insecure character in You Hurt My Feelings, and Sarah may be the most secure.

Related: You Hurt My Feelings Review: A Perfect Delight

“I do think they have a healthy relationship,” said Moayed, who is heavily in the spotlight recently for the final season of Succession (which airs its finale tomorrow night, May 28th). “I think Michaela’s character is the most put-together of the four people, and I’m lucky to have her, because she knows how to navigate Mark’s massive insecurities. And I think that they really do love each other. What I love about the movie is that both of the couples feel like they’re going to be okay. I think that they’re going to work through all of their madness, and their craziness, and it’s just very, very sweet.”

“Yeah, like you said, I don’t think it’s melodramatic.” added Watkins. “I think it’s so real. So real, and it touches on something where the betrayal is so awful because of the love that’s there, not because of the love that isn’t there. And that’s a really fascinating way to come into a couple, because in a weird way, it’s almost more devastating, right […] I think Sarah, my character, is the only one who, when she gets the validation from her work, she just doesn’t want it, she doesn’t care.”

You Hurt My Feelings and the Artist’s Insecurity

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While she isn’t exactly a beatific figure, she’s close enough to being Saint Sarah in comparison to her family. The insecurities are understandable though, especially with Mark and Beth, who are artists. Creative people (especially when their passion and profession intertwine) bare their soul to others, and risk the intimacy of naked vulnerability. When someone releases a work of art in whatever medium, they are essentially inviting criticism, asking the world, “What do you think?” Perhaps artists are hardwired to be insecure more than others.

“Where does one begin?” laughed Moayed. “I don’t know about more or less. But I will say, most of our job is a game of trying to deal with our insecurities and putting our insecurities out on blast in some sort of way […] I think it’s in the DNA.”

Related: Exclusive: You Hurt My Feelings Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nicole Holofcener, and Tobias Menzies!

“What I love about creative people and actors,” said Watkins, “is we want to be so good at what we do, that we get validation, that we get noticed for how good we are. I think about, like politicians, right now, especially in 2023, and I feel like there’s this [drive] to be famous, and it doesn’t matter how good you are. The goal is to get noticed, and grab headlines, and to be famous, despite not being necessarily good at passing policy. You know what I mean? It’s not about being good at your job. It’s a funny thing that has flipped.”

“Content doesn’t matter anymore,” added Moayed about elections and politicians. “Impressions are everything.”

“Before, you became a famous politician because you were able to move the needle for your country, but now, it’s like everybody, they’re all grabbing the microphone or tweeting, and blah, blah, blah. Whereas I feel like people who do what we do, they just want to be so good at it, and be noticed for that.”

I Just Wanted to Be Famous

Moayed’s character prompts this consideration for the two actors. He’s an actor who’s mostly remember for some movie about a pumpkin from a decade prior, but he wants to excel at his craft. He doesn’t want to be in Beth or Don’s crisis in You Hurt My Feelings; he wants to be sure that when people say he’s a great actor, they’re telling the truth and not just sparing his feelings. Or does he? Do we want honesty, or better fiction? Do we want to be known for our skills, or simply be known?

“Here’s a question,” said Watkins to Moayed. “I always wanted to ask you, when your character says, ‘I just wanted to be famous. I don’t want to do this anymore,’ do you think it’s true? I mean, do you think that, like, he’s going to be out, acting again tomorrow?”

“I think he’s going to be out tomorrow. Yeah,” answered Moayed. “I think for certain folks, it’s just not going to go away. It’s always like, there’s this phrase that we have, where ‘We’re all one audition away from making it.’ So I’m sure he’s like latching on to that. What do you think?”

“I think that in that moment, I’m like, okay, sure, honey, sweetie, whatever you say,” replied Watkins.

“Yeah, that’s why they’re great for each other. That’s the right thing,” smiled Moayed. “It’s like, ‘Okay, fine, whatever, yeah, just let yourself say that.'”

Those are the kinds of characters in You Hurt My Feelings — human enough to be relatable, but kind and decent enough to be inspiring. The couples don’t have perfect relationships, because nobody does. But they actually do create a template for a couple of things — how to have a healthy relationship that withstands the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and how to cast and support a perfect dramedy.

From A24, You Hurt My Feelings is a FilmNation Entertainment and Likely Story production, and is now in theaters.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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