I Love You, Don't Touch Me!

"Extraordinary"

I Love You, Don't Touch Me! Review


What do you get when you take a hopeless romantic virgin and dip her into the strange world of overly frank, modern ('90s) sexuality? I Love You, Don't Touch Me! -- a refreshingly fun, frequently provocative flick that leaves you feeling strangely warm despite its raunchy revelry.

Marla Schaffel plays Katie, a 25 year-old struggling singer in Los Angeles who's more "in love with love" than into having an actual relationship. Ever since the two-timing of her first love, she's dated a litany of "trolls, perverts, or liars," while clinging to an infatuated friend, Ben (Mitchell Whitfield).

Engaged friend Elizabeth (Nancy Sorel) advises she compromise with Ben, but Katie avoids her guilt about it by countering with "sexual attraction is not negotiable." Ben bears Katie's rejections and fix-ups with her "loser" girlfriends by venting in therapy. As he bemoans "women don't want sensitive," Katie's sex-crazed friend Janet (Meredith Scott Lynn) preaches that "contradiction is the female condition," while Katie denounces women for "trying to play a men's game."

Ben and Janet hit it off, bursting Katie's "platonic relationships never break up" bubble. She accuses Ben of exploiting Janet, but he knows it's her own fears talking. Next, Katie meets (rear-ends) famous composer Richard Webber (Michael Harris), a 40s cad so suave he gets away with lines like, "There are no accidents, only cosmic convenience." His expert swagger melts Katie, and she falls into his bed. But his women-"sampling" breaks them up, breaking Katie's heart, and leaving cool stud neighbor Jones (Darryl Theirse) to attempt support with harsh tags like, "We are animals."

Ben and Janet split, too, and Katie confesses to Ben her fear of losing him. Then Katie witnesses a new "compromise" low at Elizabeth's wedding, dissolving her remaining ideals. It's a love epiphany, and, finally, she makes the right relationship choice, by choosing with more than her mind alone.

Don't Touch Me is an ensemble where equally perspicacious people get to fight it out over the meaning of, and need for, love, sex, and friendship. Its cast of unknowns is exceptional. There's Mitchell Whitfield's Woody-Allen-with-chops Ben, Nancy Sorel's brutally honest Elizabeth, Darryl Theirse's smug libidinous Jones, Meredith Scott Lynn's sexual pragmatist Janet, and Michael Harris's silky smooth Richard. And all are silly, fixated, and pathetic, but poignantly real. Their divergent lifestyles make perfect foils for Katie's sexual/romantic paranoia, surrounding her by forces that, though well-intentioned, have a hard time just letting her be.

Marla Schaffel's debut as tightly-wound, vulnerable Katie is touching. Like a tremulous, awestruck alien roaming the sex-and-love-in-the-'90s world, she engages in intellectual jousts to circumnavigate passions she's scared to taste outside of love. But her songs and fantasies reveal how torn she is. This makes for a timely psychic conflict, plus some hilarious situations. Those attraction/revulsion daydreams about her boss are, alone, worth the rental. And her subconscious voice-over musings and Ally McBeal-ish suppressed urges make her extremely identifiable. (Note: this film was made in '96, a year before Ally's hi-jinks began.) Some may find Katie ingratiatingly prudish and self-absorbed, but Schaffer's matter-of-fact delivery makes you buy her completely. Locked in a clichéd something's-gotta-give dilemma, she trips writer/director Davis's land mines, but the explosions come suspenseful, funny, and almost always with a tender (albeit bawdy) heart.

Davis's characters aren't spokes-objects for the moral high-ground. They're simply versions of Ben's "overeducated, intelligent neurotic," going after fun, success, and love, though often at a high price. They're examples of life-views on surrender vs. restraint, and glimpses of their pathos (e.g., Richard's secret self-loathing) curb our enthusiastic dismissal of them. Between their desperate lines the truth is to be found--that they all need meaningful intimacy. This is no better evidenced than in Ben and Janet's fling as they ricochet between just-for-fun and something more. No one viewpoint coexists for them. Stuck in an intimacy no-man's-land, they ever near-miss each other's hearts. Comedy or not, such scenes graze the core definitions of intimacy.

The frank sexual language and sharp sex/romance divisions may put off some, but that's the calculated risk one takes with the subject matter. You can't showcase big dichotomies like virgin/whore or love/sex without rustling up our variously ingrained morals on sexual/romantic politics. Still, Julie Davis has as much in common with Nicholas Sparks as Lenny Bruce. Free-flowing raciness aside, the ending's as cliché-romantic as it gets.

Sprightly songs from Jane Ford and Melissa Ferrick (Schaffel bolting out a few) accentuate Katie's dueling energies of trepidation and desire. Some inserts are a riot, like Katie paying a homeless man to confess his "first time." But there are missteps, such as Katie's early non-virgin-like language and the Hollywood therapist-as-idealized-pal. The DVD has nice extras, like director commentary, screen-tests, and sound bites.

Don't Touch Me is a rare romantic comedy with depth -- a hoot, but with a subtext as big as an iceberg's beneath its anxious surface. Plenty of films boldly sail the infinite permutations of love and lust without half as honest, or humorous, a debate on where the two touch and diverge. In the balancing act of our minds and bodies' yearnings, we could use more films that wiggle under our knee-jerk judgments to that place where we just want to understand.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 86 mins

In Theaters: Friday 20th February 1998

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 40%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 5.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Janet, as Katie, as Ben, as Richard Webber

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Since its true story is still so timely after some 150 years, we can forgive...

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

This reunion of actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg feels like a natural successor...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Ransom Riggs' bestselling novel is appropriately adapted into a movie by Tim Burton, the gothic...

Get Back Movie Review

Get Back Movie Review

Roger Appleton's documentary 'Get Back' looks into the music scene that come out of Liverpool....

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Advertisement
Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.