Touchy Feely Screen 7 articles

Touchy Feely

2013

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  • The moments where Abby suddenly realizes how "gross" skin is are painfully bad, layering "scary" music (quavering orchestration in a minor key) over extreme close-ups of backs and thighs... The low-stakes dullness on display here is yet more evidence of an independent film scene that's been overrun by producers who have no qualms about turning out low-budget versions of Hollywood rom-com dreck in the hopes of big returns on their investments.

  • While it possesses all the hallmarks that made Shelton's debut film, Humpday, so entertaining (an interesting, imaginative plot, a stellar cast, hints of poignant drama),Touchy Feely never quite makes the plight of its characters truly engaging. The lack of connection to the protagonists or insight into what they're going through leaves the movie feeling unfinished.

  • Without an improvisational buffer, in which actors feel their way naturally and uncertainly from moment to moment, Shelton’s scenario feels as painfully contrived as it is. She’s assembled a typically fine cast, including Your Sister’s Rosemarie DeWitt (whose work in that film was uncanny), but everyone flounders here. Indeed, the screenplay is so muddled that it’s hard to fathom what it’s trying to convey, despite a twin dose of magical realism that screams “high concept.”

  • Set in a perpetually misty Seattle, Shelton’s film captures the nouveau-hippie argot of the region and, like her previous feature Your Sister’s Sister (11), depends heavily on the viewer’s willingness to buy into somewhat improbable familial relationships. But despite its talented cast, Touchy Feely’s characters lack the earlier film’s charm, wit, and chemistry. The result is a disjointed and inconsequential film whose chakras are in urgent need of realignment.

  • You'd think that a gifted director like Shelton would be able to comfortably ride on the top-tier acting talent involved... But even the acting can't save it, as there's a general, all-pervading feeling of uncertainty about the whole enterprise. Scenes drag on, awkward pauses lose any of their coiled deadpan humour and come across as bungled dialogue cues, and there's also disconnect in the acting styles, with DeWitt shooting for Cassavetes and Pais shooting for the Farreleys.

  • ...Shelton imbues her film with a hushed sense of mystery, present in both the relative quiet of the soundtrack and a visual strategy that simultaneously paints her settings with a lushly colored palette and keeps everything at a cold remove through the sterility of the digital imagery. This is a world where the occurrence of mystical events and small miracles don't feel out of place, but where the biggest miracle is always any kind of true emotional connection between its characters.

  • As in her paradoxically looser but sharper Humpday (2009) and Your Sister’s Sister (2011), Shelton has a gift for making actors feel at ease: Allison Janney’s widowed Reiki practitioner is as warm and soothing as a worn flannel shirt, and even Ellen Page, as the dentist’s anxious daughter, manages to let her hair down a tad. But when the filmmaker lines up her characters to confront their respective fears of intimacy, the loosey-goosey vibe clashes with the script’s clunky machinations...

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