Touchy Feely Movie Review
After a couple of gimmicky transgressive comedies (Humpday and Your Sister's Sister), writer-director Lynn Shelton takes a more observant approach this time. So even if, as before, the script never quite fills in the gaps in the story, it at least knowingly recreates relational awkwardness in a remarkably sensitive way. And the characters are almost eerily easy to identify with.
The centre of the story is Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), who is debating whether she should move in with her rebound boyfriend (Scoot McNairy). This sparks her to think about her whole life, and she ends up recoiling at the idea of touching human flesh. Which is a problem since she's a massage therapist. By contrast, her dentist brother Paul (Josh Pais) believes he might have the ability to heal his patients, so he consults Abby's reiki-practitioner colleague (Alison Janney) for advice. Meanwhile, Paul's daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) is terrified to tell her father that she hates working as his assistant. And she's even more afraid to admit that she has a crush on her aunt's boyfriend.
Along the way, Abby, Paul and Jenny are all pushed into a turning point in their lives by an unexpected change in circumstances, which of course feels a bit contrived. But the film's real strength is in the messy connection between family members who have issues with themselves and each other, all of which are expressed through clumsy conversations and uncomfortable physicality. As insecure siblings, DeWitt and Pais are terrific in complex roles that draw on the actors' nervous energy. But only Pais and McNairy are genuinely likeable: men who haven't a clue what to do. By contrast, the always terrific Page and Janney have much less-developed roles.
This is a movie constructed with tentative conversations in which people infuriatingly never quite say what they mean to say. Or what they need to say. If any of these people could communicate properly, their existential crises would vanish in a flash. And as Shelton tries to tie everything up in a far-too-tidy package, it's the small details that linger. And the fact that solutions almost always come when we least expect them.