Touchy Feely (R)

Comedy 90 September 6, 2013
By Violet Lucca
Just as tedious as waiting in a dentist's office for an hour and a half, Lynn Shelton's latest fumblingly cutesy outing ought to be her last. (Sadly it is not-- she's already wrapped production on a dark comedy starring Keira Knightley and Sam Rockwell.) Using a script instead of semi-improvised dialogue, her vanilla leads float through Seattle, alternately succeeding and being punished by their ability to heal others. Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a masseuse about to move in with her rebound boyfriend until she inexplicably develops a severe phobia of touching skin; her brother Paul's (Josh Pais, a significantly less funny version of Ben Stiller's "uptight schlub") dental practice experiences a sudden turnaround after he fixes a patient's rare jaw disease, and other sufferers aggressively flock to him for help. Worse than the goofy premise, Shelton fails to enliven the incredibly talk-heavy (but subtext-free) inaction with any sort of visual flair. The moments where Abby suddenly realizes how "gross" skin is are painfully bad, layering "scary" music (quavering orchestration in minor key) over extreme close-ups of backs and thighs. (They're also confusing-- at first I thought she was afraid of getting old.) Ellen Page is completely wasted as Paul's daughter, not given any juicy one-liners nor enough screen time to elicit empathy for her not-so-deeply entrenched inertia. 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. (Your Sister’s Sister was made for $125,000 and grossed $1.6 million.) Avoiding garbage like this is civic duty.
Lynn Shelton Ellen Page, Scoot McNairy, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ron Livingston, Allison Janney, Josh Pais, Alycia Delmore, Mel Eslyn Lynn Shelton Steven Schardt Magnolia Pictures

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