Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rosemarie DeWitt, Ellen Page, Allison Janney, Josh Pais, Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, Tomo Nakayama
Written by: Lynn Shelton
Directed by: Lynn Shelton
MPAA Rating: R for language, some drug use and brief sexuality
Running Time: 89
Date: 09/06/2013

Touchy Feely (2013)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Losing Touch

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lynn Shelton's previous Your Sister's Sister was an impressively intuitive movie, totally in touch with its characters, their surroundings, and their inner emotions. And so it's puzzling that her follow-up, Touchy Feely, is such a strange failure.

Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a successful massage therapist who suddenly develops an aversion to touching human skin, preventing her from working. This also affects her relationship with her boyfriend Jesse (Scoot McNairy), even though they were planning on moving in together.

Meanwhile, Abby's withdrawn brother, dentist Paul (Josh Pais) suddenly finds that he has the ability to cure his patients with TMJ pain. Suddenly his failing business springs back to life. These twists in their lives cause them to re-assess their connections with the people in their lives, including Paul's daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) and Abby's colleague Bronwyn (Allison Janney), and a flirtation with ecstasy brings new realizations.

It begins as four of the characters gather for dinner, and it's not entirely clear who they are and how they know one another. This shapeless quality continues throughout, as the movie employs a kind of supernatural device -- Abby's sudden revulsion to skin and Paul's sudden ability to heal -- in a naturalistic setting.

What's more, the movie doesn't really go anywhere with these weird changes. Supporting characters, like Ellen Page's Jenny, don't have much to do. Shelton incorporates lazy montages and odd dead-ends. And everything comes down to a dreamy, ecstasy-fueled exploration that simply ends the movie. With such aimlessness, the characters are often lost and many moments are strained. Only singer Tomo Nakayama provides a moment of gravity.

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