|Sundance London Review: Touchy Feely|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Saturday, 27 April 2013 15:50|
Director: Lynn Shelton
When is masseuse not a masseuse? When they can't stand touching people. It's the kind of story you can imagine being in a Woody Allen film - one full of potential for comedy with a strong dash of existential crisis. But Touchy Feely never really gets a grip on its idea, content to just drift around its premise before ultimately letting it slip through its fingers.
Rosemarie DeWitt is great as Abby, asked to move in her boyfriend (Scott McNairy) before turning into a complete commitment phobe. Her non-contact neurosis is a perfect contrast to her brother, Paul (Pais), an uptight dentist who suddenly finds he has healing hands - a revelation that sees people, for once, queuing up to sit in his chair.
But Lynn Shelton's script fails to develop its storylines into either a meaningful drama or source of humour. The only laughs come from Josh Pais' physical performance - a visibly uncomfortable presence, he shuffles up and down corridors with less agility than a sleepwalking mongoose. Even him trying to climb up on a massage table is hilarious.
Shelton has always had a knack of getting naturalistic turns from her stars. Touchy Feely is no exception, with Ellen Page popping up as Abby's confused niece, who has a crush on Scoot. But while the characters are believable, they never go anywhere interesting; their various problems are tied up in one trippy five-minute sequence that feels like a cop-out after such a solid initial concept.
Visually, though, Shelton is at the top of her game, tilt-shifting around the shallow screen to capture the eerie porous stuff that scares Abby so. It's a shame that eye for detail is lacking on the page. What could have been a moving film with sharp one-liners descends into a vague ensemble piece with lots of emotions but no specific direction. Touchy Feely starts strong but ultimately winds up too, well, touchy feely.
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