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After the final credits rolled and Nicole Holofcener had taken her place onstage inside Park City’s Eccles Theatre alongside stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies, the veteran filmmaker had a specific vision for how to frame what came next. Much like her films.
She made a point of calling herself “old school” by skipping an iPhone scroll and instead reading off sheets of white paper filled with the names of her collaborators who worked on the Sundance Film Festival selection You Hurt My Feelings. After all the shout-outs had been graciously delivered — she even quipped, “Did I hurt anybody’s feelings yet?” in case anyone got left out — Holofcener hoped they would all sit on the stage with legs dangling over the edge like they used to do back in the day.
While Louis-Dreyfus declined that piece of direction, she grabbed the first question tossed her way and explained what drew her to a second collaboration with Holofcener, following their well-reviewed first outing on Enough Said, co-starring James Gandolfini.
After joking that it was “a money gig,” Louis-Dreyfus said, “First and foremost, working with Nicole as a writer and director is irresistible, of course.” It helped that she loved the story. “When Nicole and I had lunch and she told me about this premise, and as soon as she told me the premise, I thought, yeah, I’m doing this movie. It’s a very small thing about a very big thing, and that is what was appealing to me.”
The film casts Louis-Dreyfus as Beth, a New York novelist who has been working for years on the follow-up to her somewhat successful memoir, sharing countless drafts with her approving, supportive husband Don (Menzies). Beth’s world quickly unravels when she overhears Don admit to her brother-in-law, Mark, that actually, he doesn’t like the new book. Michaela Watkins, Owen Teague, Arian Moayed and Jeannie Berlin round out the cast.
Today’s showing marked a welcome Sundance return for Holofcener, back at the fest for a fourth time. While she had just told Deadline that she doesn’t like to be called a “stalwart,” she acted every bit like the comfortable and confident regular back home where she belonged. “Can we turn the lights on?” Holofcener asked Sundance officials as they were fielding audience questions during the Q&A. “I’m used to the old Sundance, and this is very different.”
It was a good thing they honored her request because they rolled through some insightful questions from the crowd, including queries on improv takes, the future for Beth and Don’s marriage, Holofcener’s writing process and how Louis-Dreyfus and Menzies were able to find that “old married couple” chemistry. (Louis-Dreyfus drew laughs for offering her take on when is best to lie and when it’s best to tell the truth by saying, “You should always tell the truth and never don’t tell the truth.”)
Then, with the lights up and eyeballs scanning the crowd for the next audience member with their arm in the air, it was revealed that Michael J. Fox was not only seated for the showing, but had something he wanted to say. Fox — here in Park City for the debut of his documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie that details his life story from Hollywood superstar to Parkinson’s disease activist — offered more of a compliment than a question by saying how much he loved the movie and for how much of his own life he saw reflected back from the screen as he’s been married to wife Tracy for 35 years.
Responses like that, whether from famous audience members or fans or passionate cinephiles, are what Holofcener has been fielding throughout her career with such films as Friends With Money, Lovely & Amazing and Walking and Talking. She has long been praised for her ability to zero in on an aspect of personal relationships, sometimes broad but often niche, and touch nerves in such a way that many can easily find themselves or their friends or their family members in the characters.
In one of the closing comments, Holofcener said she’s been able to put her work out in the world often through bypassing the typical test screenings and focus groups and the like. “Even in the past with other studios, you get the lists and you get the numbers and comments and I just basically do what I want,” she said to huge applause. “I’m lucky that’s the case.”
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