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Short Takes: Touchy Feely

By Emma Myers

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(Lynn Shelton, U.S., 2013)

Touchy Feely Lynne Shelton

“You look wan,” Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) announces to her older brother Paul (Josh Pais) at the dinner table. The two siblings are like yin and yang; while Abby’s new-age massage table is hopping with clients addicted to her healing hands, Paul’s ultra-clinical dental practice is waning along with the lives of his geriatric patients.

But when Abby suddenly loses her magic touch, the family dynamic begins to shift. Now utterly repulsed by the idea of skin-to-skin contact, Abby sees minute epidermal cracks as gargantuan fissures, the smallest hairs as menacing spikes. This inexplicable new aversion not only affects her job, it also gets in the way of her relationship with the lissome Jesse (Scoot McNairy), whom her ambiguously aged niece Jenny (Ellen Page) has fallen in love with. Meanwhile, under the tutelage of Abby’s Reiki practitioner cum therapist (Allison Janney), the painfully stiff Paul begins to loosen up, working miracles on all his patients.

Set in a perpetually misty Seattle, Shelton’s film captures the nouveau-hippie argot of the region and, like her previous feature Your Sister’s Sister (11), depends heavily on the viewer’s willingness to buy into somewhat improbable familial relationships. But despite its talented cast, Touchy Feely’s characters lack the earlier film’s charm, wit, and chemistry. The result is a disjointed and inconsequential film whose chakras are in urgent need of realignment.

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