If Rosemarie DeWitt wants to touch me, she can be my guest. Hell, she can be my wife!
Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a woman that “feels” for a living. She gives massages to people, and they consider her one of the best and most worthwhile, mainly because she has that touch and feel for what it takes to give a good back-rub, or something like that. However, once Abby loses her touch, she finds herself in a bit of a funk that not only jeopardizes her job, but her relationship with her boyfriend (Scott McNairy). While on the other side of things, her brother, the up-tight, socially awkward dentist Paul (Josh Pais), seems to have gotten her “touch” and “feel”, therefore, giving him an ability to cure almost anybody’s problems they may have with their mouths. This boosts his self-confidence a bit, and may actually give him the chance to talk to his daughter (Ellen Page), and find out what she really wants to do with the rest of her life, rather than helping him out fixing cavities.
Writer/director Lynn Shelton has been something of an indie-darling, and practically, the go-to-gal for an indie-dramedy that’s not just funny, but heartfelt and insightful into human-relationships, and the way we all function. Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister are perfect examples of this, not just because those are her last two flicks before this, but because they show exactly the same type of balance of heart, humor, and humanity that I talk about. She knows how to make us laugh, while also having us cry by the end of the story, all because she gave us characters worth paying attention to and caring for. However, all of that goes right out the window here, as it seems like not only has Shelton gotten a bigger budget in her palms now, but that she’s also found a way to try and mesh her indie-style, with something that’s more mainstream and accessible to the wider audience.
Sadly, it doesn’t work.
And what doesn’t allow it to work is that this flick doesn’t have a single-beat that feels real, honest, or even believable in any way. It’s all quirky, all of the time, and done for a cheap-set of laughs that not only don’t amount to anything, but build characters that you can’t really reach and grab; mostly because they feel like one-dimensional characters. But I’m not saying they’re unlikable per se, it’s just that they don’t feature any type of realism to the way they act, speak, or go about their daily-life that makes you feel as if they are just like one of us, except more good-looking and talented. That’s how I felt with Shelton’s past two movies, and it’s what I expected to feel here, except, it didn’t happen. The story just went on, and on, and on, and on, and then, ended.
Which is a shame because you can tell that the cast seems to be trying. Rosemarie DeWitt is as charming and as cute as she’s ever been, and gives Abby a sense of down-to-earth honesty that makes her feel like a person, but the script takes over and makes her sort of a weirdo that feels all sorts of emotions a little too much. More than your average person should FEEL. And it was enjoyable to watch at times because DeWitt made it that way, but when you have a character that does such actions like tells her boyfriend to take off his shirt, only to walk away seconds later, bang him in her brother’s bathroom (and visibly too), and take ecstasy, only to get pissed-off when the boyfriend considers it “a random choice of actions”, you have to wonder just how unpredictable a character can be until they’re annoying. For me, I got annoyed of her pretty quick; and not just because I hate people that are like her character, but because she shows no rhyme or reason for the way she is. She knows that she can be unbearably odd at times, but never takes a second to think about why, or apologize to the people she loves the most, who are also sometimes the ones she hurts the most.
Same kind of goes for the rest of the cast as well, even though they are all just as thinly-written as she is, just with less charisma. Scoot McNairy feels like the type of cool, hipster boyfriend that should be winning all of the ladies’ hearts with his good-looks, his sweet voice, and scruffy beard, but somehow comes off as a bit of a wimp, the type of dude you wouldn’t expect to see with Abby or last as long with her as he has. Granted, they do make a mention to how he was “the rebound” for her, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that his character doesn’t seem to really stand-up for himself when he needs to and tell his girlfriend how he feels, at any given time. Ellen Page plays Abby’s niece, who is also the same girl who has eyes for McNairy’s character and seems like she should have that whole “angst-ridden teen” thing down by now, but feels like she’s too much of a negative Nancy to really qualify as a teen, or a character worth watching either. She’s just here and you can tell that Shelton cared about her character and her story the least. Poor Juno, we all know she’s better than this.
Surprisingly though, the only one who walks away with this movie and makes it somewhat watchable, is the least-known name on the cast-list, even though he may be the most noticeable considering of how many pieces of work he’s shown up in all of these years. The name of the face is Josh Pais, who plays the weird, quiet, and oddly-placed brother of Abby, and does what he can with this role, neurotic twitches and all. You can tell that the heart of the movie lies with this dude, and you know that Pais is capable of making us laugh at this dude, then have us want to give him a hug when all is said and done too, however, you also know that this material doesn’t seem like the type of “breaking out” piece that he may have needed so late in his career. He’s a bit of a goofy and plays all of the weirdness of this guy very well, but it doesn’t amount to much, as his character never seems to learn anything that may have needed to be learned, in order to change the way he viewed life, his sister and what his daughter wants to do for her future. There’s a sign it may happen, but it never seems discovered and that’s a real shame. His character, the most beloved one out of them all here, also ends up having no real revelation and just goes about his daily-life as usual. Boring, and slightly depressing.
Consensus: While it certainly isn’t terrible and can be watched for some good performances from this talented-cast, Touchy Feely is probably Lynn Shelton’s weakest movie to-date, and shows her in a bit of a muddle, wondering what to say about each character, how to say it, and when it should all end for them, but ends up not really saying anything at all. Maybe that’s how life is? Actually, I don’t know!
5 / 10 = Rental!!