“Due to some unforeseen circumstances I will not be seeing clients for the time being.”
I was a huge admirer of Lynn Shelton’s film, Your Sister’s Sister, and I even included it on my list of the best movies of 2011 so I was eagerly anticipating what she would do next. I loved the way she captured those characters in such an authentic way and I was onboard for her mumblecore experimentation once again. Knowing that Rosemarie DeWitt was going to be back for the lead role was one of the main reasons I included Touchy Feely in my most anticipated movies of the year list. It didn’t hurt either that Ellen Page was going to play a supporting role since I was a huge fan of her work in Hard Candy and Juno. Everything about Touchy Feely had my expectations high rocketed to the sky, but then 2012 came and poor word of mouth lowered my expectations to such a degree that I never ended up seeing it until now. It was a major letdown and it made Lynn’s previous film, Laggies, seem like a masterpiece next to this. This is a dramedy that feels completely uneven and the plot doesn’t seem to go anywhere. I didn’t like any of the characters here and their motivations were hard to understand at times. The film was a mess and the pacing was so slow that this 90 minute film felt like it was three hours long. For a film trying to explore the interrelationships between these characters there was nothing to be said or discovered. Even the actors seemed to be lost and not fully understanding what their characters motivations really were.
Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), a successful message therapist, and her boyfriend Jesse (Scoot McNairy) are enjoying a lovely dinner at her brother Paul’s (Josh Pais) home. Paul, emotionally distant and a bit depressed, lives with his daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) who has sacrificed her personal dreams to assist her father at his dental practice, which isn’t exactly flourishing. Abby on the other hand is sought after for her great hands and seems to be going through a good moment in her life. She recommends his brother visit her Reiki instructor, Bronwyn (Allison Janney), who has done amazing things for her. Things take an unexpected turn in the family dynamics however when Abby suddenly develops a strange aversion towards skin which affects her work life. After Paul helps one of his patients recover from a terrible tooth pain, his dental practice begins to flourish due to the positive word of mouth his “healing hands” are receiving. While his relationship with his daughter seems to be getting stronger, Abbie’s new aversion to skin affects her relationship with Jesse.
Despite the pretty original premise the film fails to explore Abby’s problem. It’s just a technique used to shake the interpersonal relationship in the family, but there is nothing that Lynn is trying to explore with her new found aversion. I really didn’t understand why her character didn’t simply explain to Jesse what she was going through because I’m sure he would’ve understood. He seemed like a pretty comprehensive type of guy. The introduction of Ron Livingston’s character only feels like a filler and doesn’t do anything to build the story. Ellen Page delivers a solid performance once again, but her character is trapped inside her emotional wall which doesn’t allow her to fully blossom. Pais and DeWitt are the true stars of the film and their performances are the highlight of this forgettable film. Pais especially captures the eccentricities of his character in a rather natural way. I found the New Age mysticism in the film a bit too preachy and the indie quirkiness a bit too familiar. The tone of the film just dragged it down for me and I had a hard time relating to the characters or caring for any of them.