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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Touchy Feely
Directed by Lynn Shelton
Magnolia Home Entertainment 09/13 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R language, some drug use, brief sexuality

Lynn Shelton has directed two character-driven dramas that put on display her interests in sexual politics and the strange revelations that arise when people are bowled over by change. Humpday focuses on the dynamics of male camaraderie whereas the comedy Your Sister's Sister takes on some heavy duty themes including sexual politics, the importance of truth telling in intimate relationships, and grief. Both movies have a quirky quality to them that proves to be endearing. Her third film, Touchy Feely zeroes in on the baffling changes taking place in a middle-aged brother and sister.

Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is an unmarried massage therapist whose boyfriend Jesse (Scoot McNairy) asks her to move in with him. Although they have been dating a while, she is not ready for this sustained intimacy. Her body and mind conspire together and suddenly Abby is repulsed by having to touch the skin of her clients. When she goes to see Jesse, she quickly exits rather than kiss him.

Abby's shy and neurotic brother Paul (Josh Pais) is a dentist whose practice is on a downward slide. But then something inexplicable happens: he is able to cure TMJ, a condition characterized by severe jaw pain, by just placing his hands on the sore spot. Meanwhile, his daughter Jenny (Ellen Page), who works as his dental assistant, is trying to decide whether she dare move away to attend college.

It is fascinating to watch Shelton handle the drastic turn-arounds in the lives of Abby and Paul. Best of all is her comic treatment of what happens to the finicky dentist when Bronwyn (Allison Janney), his sister's friend, demonstrates the capacities of Reiki, the Japanese healing and relaxation technique, on his rigid body. Rather than ridiculing this stress reduction wonder, the director treats it as a prop in what has to be the funniest scene in Touchy Feely.

It is a lark to watch Abby and Paul struggle with their emotional vulnerabilities and courageously try to deal with their fears and disappointments.

Special features on the DVD include outtakes; deleted scenes; interviews with Allison Janney, Scoot McNairy, Josh Pais, and writer/director Lynn Shelton; AXS TV: a look at Touchy Feely; and commentary with writer/director Lynn Shelton, Rosemarie DeWitt and Josh Pais.


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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