|Index||10 reviews in total|
Lynn Shelton's sophomore film Your Sister's Sister was a terrific
little independent gem, showcasing relationships involving siblings and
the complexities that surround quiet but notable flings we may neglect
to mention to our friends. With a talented cast of three (Rosemarie
DeWitt, Emily Blunt, and the wonderful Mark Duplass) it was a favorable
experience to say the least. Shelton returns a year later with Touchy
Feely which, to say the least, is a disappointing effort after batting
a triple in 2012.
Your Sister's Sister worked because it was predicated off of human interest and realism in its events and dialog. Shelton asserted herself in human dialog, and immersed herself in the breathtaking beauty of Seattle's woodsy environment, making the film easy-on-the-eyes and very effective. Here, she makes Touchy Feely exist in what appears to be a fantasy realm, where real-life situations occupy a plot-point of science-fiction that's not only a bit offputting but difficult to adjust to. When the film introduces these plot-points, it only becomes that much harder to stay in-tuned with it, which is an issue seeing as that's the film's central plot.
Rosemarie DeWitt is Abby, a skilled masseuse who, all of a sudden, becomes frightened by the touch/texture of human flesh. This is a major issue because it renders her job impossible. Her brother Paul (Josh Pais) works as a dentist, with his directionless daughter Jenny (Ellen Page). When Jenny impulsively states that Paul has a "healing touch" when it comes to his dental work, the fib becomes true as Paul's work begins to heal many of his customers and their dental issues.
So, while Abby's job begins to crumble before her eyes due to her newfound aversion to human skin, Paul's dentistry practices begin to flourish and the possibilities become endless on his part. We, as the audience, are simply asked to observe this happening and this is precisely the issue; the film is void of connection and moments where true sympathy could've been evoked. We learn nothing about these characters except some of their situations are sad, some make us envious, but in the end, all of them are pretty trite and forgettable.
Touchy Feely's issue comes from two things; one, it feels more gridlocked to a story, where Your Sister's Sister was breezy and flowed in the wind, thanks to improvisational dialog. The other is that it tries to humanize something inhuman, which are relationships. It tries to make them the point of focus in the film and forgets we need to see the characters involved in the relationship to make them work.
At the end of the film - which runs a rather short eighty-three minutes - I thought about Lynn Shelton and how Your Sister's Sister struck me with so much surprise and how little excitement this effort packed. I simply console and toy with the idea that she is young, smart, and clearly passionate about not only her home-state of Seattle but film as an artistic medium. I say what I do after watching a mediocre Woody Allen movie; "they'll make more."
Starring: Rosemarie DeWitt, John Pais, Ellen Page, Scoot McNairy, Allison Janney, and Ron Livingston. Directed by: Lynn Shelton.
'Touchy Feely' is yet another Indie film which depicts the repressed
behaviors and ho-hum dilemmas of middle-class American families. The
opening act is set at an awkward dinner, where it's revealed that a
dentist single father is obstructing his daughter's artistic potential
by employing her as an assistant, while his sister works as a massage
therapist, and prevaricates over moving in with her unambitious
Their issues soon materialize in bizarre ways - the dentist discovers his touch can miraculously cure long-standing dental ailments, while the massage therapist suddenly finds herself repulsed by human skin. The fine cast does their best with the material, but this lightweight fable makes little sense as pivotal plot-lines are swept under the carpet, or else forgotten by the screenwriter. By the time everybody gathers for a second dinner, most of the family problems have magically evaporated thanks to the glib ministrations of a Reiki therapist, an ex-lover's apology, the songs of an Asian folk singer and a couple of tabs of ecstasy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is listed as a comedy, but you won't be laughing. This is a story about a family of frail people who finally as one start to open up to the world around them. Each of them has their own protective layer that they need to break out of, and it is really not funny to watch. It is not a bad story, and it is told by a great cast, and the rural Seattle area looks great in the travel montages. I didn't like it, but you probably will. And Ellen Page is just so tiny, and broken in this her character never seems to really get better, and then she does no reason why. You could say that the healing of her Aunt, and Father was what she needed to heal herself, but you never see her actually healed as a result, just the result itself.
First, I am very picky about movies. I dislike most modern films because they lack solid acting, a thoughtful plot, and meaningful pacing, and instead opt for a fast-paced romp to keep the viewer entertained for 90 minutes. This film is quite different. The pace was not rushed, the characters were developed, and the acting was superb. I've now watched this film multiple times and pick up new things from each viewing. It is a very thoughtful film about who we think we are, and how fixated we are on how we think life ought to be, and I feel like anyone who takes some time to ponder about this film will have a lot to think about and enjoy reflecting on.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't "get" Touchy Feely, is there a message one can learn from
watching this movie? The Characters are dull and it's as if we're
watching a movie that's been put on because the late night infomercial
tapes aren't working, at no point is any relevant plot established and
the acting is awkward at best.
When the Dentists unexplained phenomenal healing touch diminishes and the professional massage therapist decides she is sickened by the thing she has chosen as a career the characters turn to drug use to solve there problems, the most meaningful conversation is when the father and daughter sit at the table after there one night bender and don't say anything at all.
One redeeming factor is Ellen Page she is as cute as always she earns all 3 stars I give this midday (watch as you cook or background noise) movie.
"Due to some unforeseen circumstances I will not be seeing clients for
the time being."
I was a huge admirer of Lynn Shelton's film, Your Sister's Sister, and I even included it on my list of the best movies of 2011 so I was eagerly anticipating what she would do next. I loved the way she captured those characters in such an authentic way and I was onboard for her mumblecore experimentation once again. Knowing that Rosemarie DeWitt was going to be back for the lead role was one of the main reasons I included Touchy Feely in my most anticipated movies of the year list. It didn't hurt either that Ellen Page was going to play a supporting role since I was a huge fan of her work in Hard Candy and Juno. Everything about Touchy Feely had my expectations high rocketed to the sky, but then 2012 came and poor word of mouth lowered my expectations to such a degree that I never ended up seeing it until now. It was a major letdown and it made Lynn's previous film, Laggies, seem like a masterpiece next to this. This is a dramedy that feels completely uneven and the plot doesn't seem to go anywhere. I didn't like any of the characters here and their motivations were hard to understand at times. The film was a mess and the pacing was so slow that this 90 minute film felt like it was three hours long. For a film trying to explore the interrelationships between these characters there was nothing to be said or discovered. Even the actors seemed to be lost and not fully understanding what their characters motivations really were.
Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), a successful message therapist, and her boyfriend Jesse (Scoot McNairy) are enjoying a lovely dinner at her brother Paul's (Josh Pais) home. Paul, emotionally distant and a bit depressed, lives with his daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) who has sacrificed her personal dreams to assist her father at his dental practice, which isn't exactly flourishing. Abby on the other hand is sought after for her great hands and seems to be going through a good moment in her life. She recommends his brother visit her Reiki instructor, Bronwyn (Allison Janney), who has done amazing things for her. Things take an unexpected turn in the family dynamics however when Abby suddenly develops a strange aversion towards skin which affects her work life. After Paul helps one of his patients recover from a terrible tooth pain, his dental practice begins to flourish due to the positive word of mouth his "healing hands" are receiving. While his relationship with his daughter seems to be getting stronger, Abbie's new aversion to skin affects her relationship with Jesse.
Despite the pretty original premise the film fails to explore Abby's problem. It's just a technique used to shake the interpersonal relationship in the family, but there is nothing that Lynn is trying to explore with her new found aversion. I really didn't understand why her character didn't simply explain to Jesse what she was going through because I'm sure he would've understood. He seemed like a pretty comprehensive type of guy. The introduction of Ron Livingston's character only feels like a filler and doesn't do anything to build the story. Ellen Page delivers a solid performance once again, but her character is trapped inside her emotional wall which doesn't allow her to fully blossom. Pais and DeWitt are the true stars of the film and their performances are the highlight of this forgettable film. Pais especially captures the eccentricities of his character in a rather natural way. I found the New Age mysticism in the film a bit too preachy and the indie quirkiness a bit too familiar. The tone of the film just dragged it down for me and I had a hard time relating to the characters or caring for any of them.
'TOUCHY FEELY': Two and a Half Stars (Out of Five)
Another comedy-drama film about relationships from writer/director Lynn Shelton. Shelton also wrote and directed the 2009' film 'HUMPDAY' and 2011's 'YOUR SISTER'S SISTER' (which was a better movie). One of the stars of 'YOUR SISTER'S SISTER', Rosemarie DeWitt, also stars in this film along with Ellen Page, Josh Pais, Scoot McNairy, Allison Janney, Tomo Nakayama and Ron Livingston. The movie is about a dentist and his daughter struggling to revive their dental business and the dentist's sister, who's a massage therapist, that suddenly loses her ability to touch another human being (out of fear). It's quirky and oddly funny at times but never very touching or as emotionally moving as it would like to be.
DeWitt plays Abby, a massage therapist who's boyfriend Jesse (McNairy) just asked her to move in with him. This scares her, as her last relationship was a hard breakup, and she starts having panic attacks that prevent her from doing her job. Her brother Paul (Pais) is a very conservative and anal dentist who lives in their parents' old house with his daughter Jenny (Page). Jenny is Paul's assistant at his dental practice, where business has been extremely slow. One day Jenny invites her friend Henry (Tomo Nakayama) in for a free cleaning and when her father heals his long time tooth pains their reputation picks up and so does their business.
The movie is interesting and entertaining enough while you're watching it but once it's over it doesn't really leave you with much to think about. That's good enough for some movies but I think a film like this really wants to accomplish a lot more. The cast is all great (I think DeWitt is gorgeous and I've been a fan of Page ever since 'JUNO') and the characters are likable but I don't think the resolutions to their problems are very satisfactory. It's oddly funny but never hilarious and is frequently on the verge of being emotionally moving but never quite gets there. It all seems just a little too uneventful in the end. Not a bad film but not an especially good one either.
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Between Ellen Page, Allison Janney, and Rosemarie DeWitt, you have a
great filmography between the three in which you will likely find the
best drama or comedy movies of the past few years; and between DeWitt
and Janney, you'll also find some of the best television of the past
few years. Leading to the question of how come this film seemed to not
really pop up anywhere? Is it simply that Magnolia Pictures wanted to
focus on their other projects more, like Blackfish, or simply a general
lack of interest? To find out if you should be interested in this
movie, look below.
Characters & Story
In this awkward little family, Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a massage therapist, who has an interest in alternative medicine; her brother Paul (Josh Pais), who at first meeting comes off as Abby's father, is a dentist who speaks in monotone and is very plain; and then there is Paul's daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) who simply is a young girl, likely fresh out of high school, who is unsure what to do with her life.
Leading to the main story which deals with Abby's sudden phobia of being touched, or touching people, as her brother magically starts getting the healing touch. Something which turns his dying dental practice into the place many believe a miracle worker practices at. And while Abby adjusts to losing her ability to make people feel better, she has to deal with her boyfriend Jesse (Scoot McNairy), who originally was supposed to be a rebound from her ex Adrian (Ron Livingston). Then, as for Paul, as he discovers the power of his touch can help people, he starts to meet more and more with Abby's friend Browyn (Allison Janney) who teaches him Reiki, among other things. Leaving Jenny who pretty much spends most of the movie either working with her dad or wanting her aunt's boyfriend.
When it comes to praise, the nicest thing I can say is that the aforementioned actresses, and their co-stars, seem to fit their characters well. DeWitt playing a normal woman put in a weird situation seems in her comfort zone; Page being a teen who is on the cusp of adulthood and unprepared for the burden seems like something she is comfortable with; and then Janney playing an sort of eccentric character who rolls with the punches, once more, seems like something she has done before and is very comfortable in doing again and again.
Problem with that is, with their performances all feeling like a character they have played before, and with them playing these new characters without enthusiasm, it makes for a rather boring watching experience. Something which isn't helped by a story which never really explains why Abby gained her phobia of touching people, much less why Paul suddenly has magic fingers. There is no medium who makes them switch abilities, nor are there any concrete reasons. Then, when it comes to Paul, he is so boring that even as he meets with Browyn and tries to become a more interesting character, it feels more like a last ditch effort more than anything. Plus throughout the film I just felt like there was this big elephant in the room dealing with who in the world was Jenny's mom and where did she go? Since Paul, in the state we meet him, honestly seems more realistic as a 50+ year old divorcée, with two kids, rather than a guy in his 40s who has Abby as his sister and Jenny as his daughter.
The story as a whole though does not in any way makeup for these dull characters unfortunately. For between the aforementioned switch, and then the personal drama, you are left wondering what is the point of the film, or the story they are trying to tell? With Abby's relationship with both Jesse and Adrian, there doesn't seem to be any real direction, conflict, much less resolution. Then, when it comes to Jenny, the whole her liking Jesse thing was very weird and it also felt a bit slapped together. Almost like they knew it should have been cut, but they wanted Ellen Page in the movie, so they threw something together so that the role was just big enough for her to justify showing up, learning her lines, and maybe mentioning the movie hopefully.
Overall: Skip It
I was meandering between saying this was "TV Viewing" or "Skip It" when I first started watching this, but as the plot continued on, no characters began to draw me into their drama, and the story showed that it was all downhill from the beginning, I honestly wanted to stop watching this movie. And even though I did finish it, I can't honestly imagine this being worth more than background noise for a good Sunday nap. For while I like the female leads of the movie, and think they are brilliant, in each and every one of their filmographies you'll find films like these which seem more made for them to say they were actively working than really part of something you can imagine them openly, and repeatedly, promoting.
I wanted to love this movie, it feels exactly like the type of movie in
which that would happen. It started off so strongly and I was convinced
that it would be one of my favorite films of the year. And then it just
kind of died. The actors were all great and it is hard for me not to
love anything Allison Janney is involved with. I just can't quite put
my finger on what happened here.
Rosemarie DeWitt is a masseuse who is suddenly turned off by skin and physical contact and this creates a barrier with her job as well as her boyfriend. Josh Pais is her brother, a dentist who borders on being seemingly autistic and really has no joy or connection with anyone in the world, including his daughter (Ellen Page) who feels trapped working with her father at his office. Pais goes to see Allison Janney (a masseuse working with DeWitt) and is inspired to have connections of his own, but we never really see it come to fruition in any meaningful way that makes any sense. Which is how I felt about most of the situations in the film.
The parts with the father coming to Allison Janney for the first time and the great interaction and natural acting of the family all getting together for that first dinner were perfect. But then everything just kind of flattens out and people get worse and try various things to get better and some of it works and some is sort of unresolved and we never quite go beyond that.
I was quite surprised to find that this film was under 90 minutes because when it was nearly over, I found myself wondering just when it was going to end because it felt so long. There are voice-over and music montages where we see what the various characters are going through that just feel like they are twice as long as they should be. And those are the types of scenes I typically love so I really wish they had landed in this film. I think if I had cared more about the characters and they weren't just odd caricatures as the film went on, it would have maybe had more impact. The acting was all really great though and I loved the cast. They did well with what felt like half-baked characters and certainly elevated the film in that regard.
Things resolve themselves for the characters without any real feeling of why but I didn't depart with any real personal resolution from the audience standpoint.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, like I'm sure many have, I also claimed to wanting to watch
DeWitt in almost anything. 'YSS/Your sister's sister' was followed by
that fracking movie with Matt Damon and John Krasinski, in which DeWitt
didn't have much to do, but hey, she was there, the voice of Damon's
Well, she's in this one too, re-teaming with her YSS director, Lynn Shelton. It's a surreal kinda tale, with the tone weaving more towards the comedic rather than the dramatic, which was the strength of YSS. It spins 2 parallel tales of siblings, where one's fortune in their chosen profession takes off, along with cementing certain personal relationships as well, while the other's fortunes nosedive in parallel. While observing both these whimsical tales is interesting, strangely enough, there's a connection lacking between the protagonists and us, the audience. The cast's fantastic, with Alison Janney having a nice coupla scenes (but not enough, esp. towards the end), along with Ellen 'Juno' Page, Scoot 'Killing them softly' 'Argo' 'In search of a midnight kiss' McNairy and Ron 'Office Space' 'Swingers' 'Drinking Buddies' Livingston (who's in this for 1 scene, sorry RL fans).
All of that casting comes to naught though, and I classify this under being one of those 'missed efforts', of which there seem to be so much floating out there. Still, its an Indie, and its got Rosemarie DeWitt, and I'd watch her in anything, even repeatedly.
Its also surprising that the movie doesn't use one of its key conceits (that kinda makes its appearance a little bit towards the end) to more effect, in spite of its having been 'used' by both of its key protagonists. And what does each 'learn' from their predicament - no answer. Where is their arc? Maybe there was one, but I definitely missed it. Why don't we go deeper into the metaphors for 'massage', 'Reiki' (one needs touch, and the other uses your 'aura', therefore needing no touch - what do they mean to one another in the context of this flick) and even 'dentistry' - no clue. All of this came across as kinda half-baked, but perhaps Shelton was leaning towards being abstract, the way most Indies wanna get to be. I did not get it the way it was perhaps intended.
Well, all that being said, I need to watch it for DeWitt once again, though its kinda surprising that Pais gets more screen-time than she does.
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