Lynn Shelton's latest mumblecore dramedy feels sluggish and insubstantial
Lynn Shelton's blossoming career as the brightest graduate of the mumblecore school takes an odd, unsatisfactory turn with Touchy Feely. The writer / director of Humpday and Your Sister's Sister revisits familiar themes of dysfunctional families, strained relationships and unlikely siblings but this time everything feels a little half-baked and under-seasoned. Individual characters and components show plenty of potential but few of them are fully realised and several of them don't seem to belong in the same film.
In Seattle, Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a successful masseuse with a boyfriend Jesse (Scoot McNairy) who has just asked her to move in with him. She hesitates because he was supposed to be her ‘rebound guy’ not her happy ever after. The crisis provokes a sudden revulsion to the look and feel of skin. At the same time, her dour, depressed brother Paul (Josh Pais) suddenly develops a healing touch that transforms his struggling dental practice into a roaring success.
The characters and their foibles are straight from a Woody Allen script but everything about them is sketchy and drifts in and out of focus. Josh Pais gives such a minimalist performance as the emotionally stilted Paul that he almost fails to register and reliable performers like Ellen Page as Paul's frustrated daughter Jenny and Allison Janney as Abby's therapist friend Bronwyn are given surprisingly little to do.
Touchy Feely is ultimately about people who fail to connect or seem unable to communicate with their nearest and dearest. It has moments that are vaguely amusing or mildly insightful but more often it feels sluggish and insubstantial. The prolific Shelton already appears to be back on track with Laggies, which was warmly received at Sundance earlier this year, but Touchy Feely is still a disappointment.
Limited release from Fri 16 May.