Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Touchy Feely

There's a spark missing from Lynn Shelton's Touchy Feely, a sense of what animated a film in which appealing characters fall through each other lives for reasons that the director never seems to fully engage with. Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt, who worked with Shelton in this) is a Seattle massage therapist on the brink of moving in with boyfriend Jesse (Scoot McNairy). Just as Abby begins to lose her desire to touch her patients and her boyfriend, her brother Paul's (the excellent Josh Pais) quiet dental practice takes off when Paul somehow acquires the ability to "cure" his patients' TMJ with a touch. The siblings' are headed in opposite directions as Paul's daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) nurses a crush on Jesse and debates whether to tell her Dad she wants to leave for college. I kept waiting for Abby and Paul's story to mean something, but Shelton can only give a nod to deeper spiritual thoughts in a brief performance by Allison Janney as a Reiki teacher. I'd watch DeWitt and Page in just about anything, but Shelton doesn't seem to know what to with Abby and resorts to writing her an (impressively shot) ecstasy trip. Ellen Page plays Jenny's conflict and unhappiness very well; if only the role had give her a chance to show some wit or more ambition. (Jenny wants to cook, but we barely see she can.) Josh Pais steals Touchy Feely as Paul, in a superb depiction of what happens when chance brings a middle-aged rut to an end. Pais and the other actors deserve better from the script. Lynn Shelton seems to have no trouble attracting talent - her next film stars Keira Knightley and Chloe Moretz - but next time out she needs to build a stronger framework for her talent.

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