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

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

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.