Have you ever wished you could look into the windows of the saddest, truest, loneliest lives there ever were without disrupting anything? Because if so, have I got the movie for you. Magnolia Pictures has just released their newest film, Touchy Feely today, although it premiered much earlier in the year, at Sundance. In fact, now that you mention it, yes we did happen to recommend it in our top five films from that festival eight months ago. And yes it did happen to live up to all that Crushable hype, and the festival hype too, as it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. Thank you for asking.
Here’s why we were excited about it back then:
Starring Rosemarie DeWitt as a massage therapist who suddenly can’t bear human contact just as her brother becomes known for his dental practice’s ‘healing touch’, this film has a talented ensemble cast including Allison Janney, Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, and Josh Pais. Plus it’s directed by Lynn Shelton, who was previously lauded for her films My Sister’s Sister and Humpday.
I should tell you that I tend to be a little suspicious of films that label themselves as having ‘ensemble casts’ but this one really did. Rosemarie’s behaviors kind of bookended the whole thing and wove it together, but we learned a lot about Ellen’s character’s life as well, and fear, and aging. It was a really beautiful look at the kind of backsliding that can happen if you stop paying attention to your own life.
But probably the best part of the movie for me, and the reason you all should see it is for its extremely accurate portrayal of…awkwardness. I feel like most films take the easy route when portraying someone as a quirky, socially-stunted character, and just cast a hot girl who is unable for the first two-thirds of the movie to tell a guy that she likes him. Whenever she eats, she gets frosting on her nose, and sometimes she goes out of her apartment with wet hair. WHAT A MESS.
But this movie gets at that concept in a much more honest, effective way, with a combination of close up, intricate camera work, sparse, sometimes improvised dialogue, and an extremely talented cast. These are not people who have one or two obstacles in their way, like needing a makeover — they are desperately incapable of simple interactions.
Josh Pais in particular is insanely good at making it clear to me just exactly how and why he’s unable to communicate, even though he desperately wants to. And the scene of him crawling onto Alison Janney’s massage table is incredible. I laughed out loud, which I almost never do in movie theaters.
More than most other writers or directors I’ve seen, Lynn Shelton makes every single one of her characters empathetic, even in the moments when they’re behaving strangely or even badly. You can just see that they’re not equipped to understand or cope with the transformations that are occurring around and within them, and it’s a sad joy to watch as they grapple with them and wonder if they’re going to fall victim or gain insight.
Go see it. If you live in New York, it’s showing at the Clearview Theater, in Chelsea. Get there, I loved it.