I certainly didn't expect it to be so funny (it's listed as a drama), although its humor is of the quirky, slow-burn variety that doesn't always call attention to itself. Much of my own amusement came from Josh Pais' painfully repressed dentist, Paul, who is so clearly uncomfortable in his own skin that even when he finds a measure of contentment it's with a wary distrust of the universe. His social awkwardness makes you squirm even as you laugh in recognition at every subtle twitch and pained smile. He may be a middle-aged dad who interacts with patients on a daily basis, but the man has never learned to be at ease with others.
|Rosemarie DeWitt, Scoot McNairy|
The film could almost be described as a series of awkward conversations between people failing to tell each other their true feelings. But instead of playing as soap opera, the scenes tingle with an intelligence and lighthearted self-awareness that help them avoid melodrama. All the actors, but especially DeWitt and Pais, are adept at providing little touches and expressionistic tics that make them familiar to real life. Some of this is due to the semi-improvised atmosphere fostered by director Shelton. But DeWitt—from the first season of Mad Men up through Shelton's own Your Sister's Sister—has always excelled at bringing an alarming dimension of truthfulness to her characters.
|Ellen Page, Josh Pais|
True to its title, Touchy Feely exhibits a particular brand of West Coast woo-woo, where herbal elixirs and the exchange of energy fields are taken for granted. As a Washington resident, Shelton's approach to such a mindset is understandably sympathetic (and remarkably accurate). Furthering the reflective vibe is Vinny Smith's spare score, along with a beautifully sung piece by newcomer Tomo Nakayama. Benjamin Kasulke does his usual fine job behind the camera, his precise, grounded compositions embracing the film's Seattle locations while providing mood-setting views that leave the characters regarding the city simultaneously from within and without.
It's that sense of disconnection—and imbalance—that Abby and Paul spend the bulk of the movie trying to correct, turning Touchy Feely into an amusing journey of discovery (and recovery) that, while existing on its own wavelength, pulses with a gentle humanity that's happy to take all who are willing along for the ride.
|Pais with Allison Janney|