One of life’s little ironies comes from our internalization of what we put of ourselves into the world. We have an insatiable need for others’ approvals without necessarily giving thought to actually communicating those needs. Writer-director Nicole Holofcener explores these notions in her quiescent dramedy, You Hurt My Feelings, which is expanding nationwide this weekend.

A critical darling on its Sundance release earlier this year, Holofencer centers her attention on Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Beth, a novelist with a published memoir who inadvertently overhears her husband Don’s (Tobias Menzies) criticism of her latest, unpublished work. Even her publisher is critical of the work, but her job is to tell her clients of the shortcomings. The clutch is that Don’s own career as a therapist jades him from being able to take his own advice, a frequent source of deadpan humor in Holofencer’s story.

Beth teaches writing at a university level to seek validation, often without success. She supports her students, her husband, and their son, Elliott (Owen Teague), who has his own set of relationship problems, namely his parents, whom he doesn’t understand. Uniquely, Beth and Don communicate but don’t say much to each other. Beth reserves that for the people who occupy her life outside the relationship with Don, namely Sarah (Michaela Watkins) and their ailing mother, Georgia (Jeannie Berlin).

Louis-Dreyfus gives everyday life meaning, even if there is no meaning in that portrayal of everyday life. Holofencer develops their truths in You Hurt My Feelings through trials and tribulations in a meaningful, highly relatable way. Human nature deflects what it doesn’t want to deal with by focusing on other people’s problems. For Beth, that is her “open” relationship with Sarah, an interior designer with a demanding client. Louis-Dreyfus plays Beth with conviction – she believes she is right, and everyone else who is critical is wrong.

It hadn’t occurred to me, and this is purely based on my experience, that Holofencer.built Don around Bob Newhart’s Bob, the psychologist whose own idiosyncrasies strangely never help his patients or his patience, something Don suffers from, yet like Don, Bob draws in the needy. Menzies’ performance is deadpan and steady. He is a rock, but it is not foundational.

You Hurt My Feelings bursts with comedic and dramatic energy and unfolds in a naturalistic and pleasing way. You can’t help but fall in love with the characters and their situations, a triumph for Holofencer. She understands the character’s convictions, and even though we see their human frailties for what they are, her confidence in her storytelling abilities only strengthens her case. It helps that one can laugh at Don’s inability to get through to a struggling married couple whose relationship is on the rocks and wants their money back, or the patient who seemingly needs help but off camera spouts off that he doesn’t find the advice helpful. Holofencer contrasts this with Beth, whose own life is genuinely co-dependent from Don’s in that the criticisms of her efforts are primarily ignored; Holofencer explores this with her last novel, which ends up buried in the stacks of a bookstore rather than being front and center, a fact that Georgia reminds her of every chance she gets.

None of the characters are snooty enough to ignore what’s being said, but none believe they are wrong because they don’t communicate with one another. Holofencer stages this with the big reveal at Sarah and Mark’s (Arian Moayed) home; by this point, Sarah has learned the truth but isn’t willing to face it, though she pouts and broods like no other. Sarah has urged Beth to face Don, and Mark has urged Don to withhold the truth, thinking it would hurt the relationship, and when it comes out, Beth’s reaction is comedic and sobering.

You Hurt My Feelings succeeds in the characters and the performances, but they are nothing without a keen camera, capturing the New York City landscape within which the story is set. Jeffrey Waldron’s eye captures the naturalized essence that never detracts from the performances, allowing them to shine in their own way.

Holofencer’s characters may not have their stuff (insert your own expletive here) together, but she certainly does. There is a perceived level of confidence from the writer-director that is seen and felt. It is one of the few modern movies that is character-centric, with a strong story underpinning their emotions. You Hurt My Feelings has enough conviction to stick its landing without question.