Little Film, Big Heart
Simply thinking about Touchy Feely makes me smile. It’s a drama, for sure, but the characters endeared themselves to me with their oh-so-human amusing frailties. Written and directed by Lynn Shelton, the film is about a sister and brother going through some important life changes and their difficulty communicating with each other. But it also focuses on the brother’s daughter and the sister’s boyfriend, who are struggling with their own problems. No epic here -- just a lovely movie about how important family and friends are to our own happiness.
Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) seems to love her job as a massage therapist until one day she’s shocked to find herself with a mysterious aversion to bodily contact. Yikes! At the same time, Jesse (Scoot McNairy) – her boyfriend – asks her to move in with him. Naturally, Abby can’t help harboring doubts about such a move, which doesn’t bode well for these two love birds. Meanwhile, Abby’s uptight brother Paul (Josh Pais), who’s dealing with financial difficulties because of his failing dental practice, faces a shock of his own. Patients start showing up in droves because they think he has special healing powers that will cure their jaw joint pain (TMJ). Can this miraculous power be true – and what will happen if it goes away?
Paul’s daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) serves as his dental assistant, but she’s not too happy about that. She also tries to take care of her dad at home. Lonely and undecided about going to college, Jenny develops feelings for her aunt’s boyfriend. Needless to say, things get complicated for everyone in this family – and it’s hard not to be captivated while watching how each one grows by interacting with the others.
The acting in Touchy Feely rates applause, for all cast members play their roles with a clear understanding of what their characters are up against. DeWitt (Nobody Walks) wins our sympathy by convincing us of Abby’s deep fears, and we can’t help wanting things to turn around for her. Page (Juno) works her own special magic as a frustrated young woman struggling with personal and family problems. McNairy (Argo) couldn’t be better as a surprised suitor who has trouble figuring out what’s happening to the one he loves. Pais (The Station Agent) excels in a funny scene with the great Allison Janney (Juno), who plays Abby’s friend. It’s such a treat to watch Pais’ emotionally closed-off dentist learning about Reiki, a Japanese relaxation technique! Plus, the special chemistry between Pais and Janney is something wonderful to behold in every one of their scenes together, which are way too few for me.
No speedy car chases, loud explosions, or mind-numbing special effects mar Touchy Feely. It’s just a little film about less-than-perfect people dealing with the ups and downs of life and love. If that appeals to you, please don’t miss this one.
(Released by Magnolia Pictures and rated “R” for language, some drug use and brief sexuality.)
For more information about Touchy Feely, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.