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What to watch: Julia Louis

Nov 17, 2023Nov 17, 2023

Knotty relationships wherein honesty doesn't always prevail figure prominently in two of the best releases this week, one that's popping up in theaters, the other on Apple TV+.

Our Memorial Day weekend roundup also features a decent Gerard Butler spy thriller and a shockingly good Shudder! shocker and a worthwhile documentary on PBS.

Here's what's worth seeing this long weekend:

"You Hurt My Feelings": It's impossible not to develop a little crush, even if it's a fleeting one, on Julia Louis-Dreyfus whenever she's onscreen. Part of her appeal can be attributed to her frequently portraying people we relate to: Flawed humans who don't always say and do the appropriate thing and often find themselves tangled up in a tight ball of neuroses.

With "You Hurt My Feelings," she's paired, for a second time, with her ideal filmmaking muse, the sly chronicler of modern uneasiness and disorienting moral aches and pains, Nicole Holofcener. Never heard of her? Check our her work. You won't be disappointed.

But before doing so head to the theaters and see "You Hurt My Feelings," a breath of fresh air in this season of sequels and reboots.

The radiant, immensely approachable dramedy takes a kind look at the fragility of our egos and about how one offhand opinion can snowball into an avalanche of resentment, doubts and eventually introspection. The cast, per Holofcener's standards, couldn't be better.

The director takes her time with story — capturing how we fumble about when trying to communicate — before getting to the juicy launching pad for all this: an overheard comment that shakes up the comfy comforts of two happily married New Yorkers: Beth (Louis-Dreyfuss), a writer and writing instructor, and Don (Tobias Menzies of "The Crown"), a therapist who's stuck in a rut and worried about his looks.

Both are highly intelligent and successful, but do they ever dance around the notion of "truth" — accepting gifts they don't really like with a smile, failing to intercede when a dysfunctional couple bickers throughout a counseling session, soft-balling comments about a student's story. Then comes a moment of truth that prompts a metaphysical meltdown.

Don's confession that he doesn't think Beth's first novel, a follow-up to her memoir, is any good affects everyone around them, including their son Eliot (Owen Teague) who works the counter at a pot shop and is a nascent writer, Beth's impatient sister Sarah (Michaela Watkins) and Sarah's actor hubby Mark (Arian Moayed). Even Beth and Sarah's mom Georgia (a hilarious Jeannie Berlin) tangentially feels it and wants her daughter to get over her insecurities. Can Beth ever do that? Holofcener doesn't go there for good reason, offering up instead an open-ended resolution to the film's central conceit — should we speak our "truth" even if it's going to hurt those close to us? It's a good debate and Holofocener addresses it with identifiable compassion and understanding. She's a filmmaking treasure, and "You Hurt My Feelings" is one of her best features. Details: 3½ stars; opens May 26 in area theaters.

"Platonic": Coming up with something insightful, original and hilarious about the bumbling antics of two former besties who reconnect is no easy task. But executive producers and stars Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen, along with creators Nicholas Stoller (director of "Bros," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall") and Francesca Delbanco make it seem like a breeze.

Told in 10 pithy, 30-minute episodes, this Apple TV+ charmer begins with the reconciliation of married with children former lawyer Sylvia (Byrne) with recently uncoupled brewery co-owner Will (Rogen). The two inseparables had a huge falling out when Sylvia sagely advised Will not to get hitched to Audrey (Alisha Wainwright). Once Sylvia and Will start to hang out, they start to act like their younger selves and get into a whole lot of mischief. It all starts to concern Sylvia's hunky, immensely likable hubby Charlie (Luke Macfarlane), who's understanding to a fault. There are other well-developed supporting characters who contribute to the series success, but this show really rests on the central three stars, and each show off their impeccable comedic timing and their dramatic chops on occasion.

Byrne brings surprising depth to the role, particularly when Sylvia tries to re-engage in the workforce. Rogen, in an ideal role, gets to tap into his volatile streak such as when Will takes his rage out on scooters. But as terrific they are, the script and the direction match their talents and challenge them. Just be prepared to binge all three episodes and be eagerly await more to come. Details: 3½ stars; available now on Apple TV+.

"American Born Chinese": Kelvin Yu and Destin Daniel Cretton's adaptation of San Jose cartoonist Gene Luen Yang's beloved graphic novel works some special magic, a spectacular mashup of Chinese mythological characters and a coming-of-age story that creates an insightful look at what it's like to be an Asian American teen in high school. The multi-layered story finds Jin Wang (an outstanding Ben Wang) assigned by educators to get chummy with the new guy at high school, Wei-Chun (Jimmy Liu), since he too is Asian. Jin assumes Wei-Chun is a nerd and a bore (he does wear a shirt with a robot plastered on it), but soon learns he's anything but and comes from a mythological family lineage. The snappy screenplay, acute observations on what it is like to be an Asian American teen in a mostly white school and martial arts action — Berkeley's Daniel Wu has a great time as the Monkey King — contribute in making this a fast-paced, addictive show with wonderful cameos and supporting appearances from Oscar winners Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan and others, including the ever-busy Stephanie Hsu. Details: 3½ stars; available now on Disney +.

"Influencer": If you prefer Hitchockian horror over slasher fare, you’ll want to dive right into director/co-screenwriter Kurtis David Harders's crafty thriller, a trickster that doesn't unfold the way you’d suspect. The less said about the plot the better; what can be revealed is that it begins with influencer-weary Madison (Emily Tennant from TV's "Riverdale") getting chummy with adventurous tourist CW (Cassandra Naud, having a lot of fun with the role). Madison is lonely since her boyfriend didn't come with her to Thailand, and her new connection leads to day trips and a boat trip and then …."Influencer" confounded me countless times and it sticks landing oh so well. It also has something potent to say about social media. Details: 3 stars; available May 26 on Shudder.

"The Wrath of Becky": There's something undeniably cathartic about seeing vicious neo-Nazis getting their savage comeuppance. And that's pretty much what you’re gonna get from this gory sequel to a 2020 hit that finds unhinged teenager Becky (Lulu Wilson) taking out a pack of white supremacists as they prepare to stage an odious and bloody uprising. Written with tongue firmly in cheek by co-director Matt Angel, this is a nonfat revenge bloodbath, with a running time under and lots of cheer-able moments. Wilson taps into the rebellious outrage of Becky while Seann William Scott exudes the right mercurial levels of crackpot cockiness as a "Noble Man" ringleader. It's destined to be a cult classic. Details: 3 stars; in select theaters May 26.

"Fanny: The Right to Rock": This illuminating documentary delves into the sexism, racism, ageism and homophobia that confronted members of Fanny, which many consider the first all-female rock band. Director Bobbi Jo Hart doesn't futz around, adopting a traditional approach by concentrating on interviews with the major players. That no-fuss storytelling style works well as band members reflect on everything from their musical origins in Sacramento to the highs and lows of their rock-and-roll lifestyles. It's a tender, intimate portrait of these groundbreakers as they prepare to release a reunion album in their 60s. Be prepared to get misty-eyed. Details: 3 stars; now available on

Contact Randy Myers at [email protected].

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