The dysfunctional family has been portrayed in many different ways in film and TV, but none so quite like this. Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married) reunites with director Lynn Shelton (Your Sister’s Sister) for the “self-improved” comedy Touchy Feely. DeWitt plays Abby, a free-spirited massage therapist who, for mysterious reasons, is suddenly unable to make bodily contact with her customers without freaking out.
This dramedy has all of the markings to find indie success; not only does it have an experienced director of the genre at the helm, but also touts a great ensemble cast, familiar with this territory. Blockbuster babe and indie darling Ellen Page (Inception) takes on the role of Jenny, a depressed small town girl working as a dental assistant to her uptight, germaphobe father Paul, played by Josh Pais (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), who is also Abby’s brother. The relationships between these characters are tested when a sudden transformation occurs and alters both their personal and professional lives.
Dreamy camera work, in true Shelton fashion, adds to the film’s unique concept of reality.
The once awkward, struggling dentist Paul is miraculously given the power of the healing touch; every patient he sees is suddenly cured of his or her toothaches and cavities. Though the transformation is at first overwhelming, he soon embraces his new gift, changing his life for the better. However, things don’t go so well for Abby. A once sought after massage therapist, Abby finds herself quitting her job over her newfound sudden fear of human contact. This phobia also disrupts her relationship with her boyfriend, Jesse, played by Scoot McNairy (Argo), who himself finds comfort in hanging out with Abby’s niece Jenny.
Dreamy camera work, in true Shelton fashion, adds to the film’s unique concept of reality. In one scene, Jenny and Jesse head to a club to check out a friend’s band, and the juxtaposition of the film’s slow and emotional acoustic guitar soundtrack with the visual of the upbeat and grungy rock and roll club is executed perfectly.
The only off-putting quirk was the overabundant use of the “ummm” sound. Being the type of film Shelton makes, Touchy Feely allows for the occasional stutter, but at times it seems like the actors are trying to remember their lines on the spot rather than consciously making an acting choice, a possible flaw for the mumblecore genre on the whole.
With a run time of exactly 90 minutes, Touchy Feely is delivered in a neatly perfect package; solid direction from Lynn Shelton makes this one of her top films to date. The chemistry the actors have amongst each other is completely natural, which may be due to their offscreen relationships; Rosemarie DeWitt acts alongside her real life husband Ron Livingston. So, if you’re looking for a film that’s part surreal, part emotional, and completely charming, check out Touchy Feely.