An Oregon massage therapist (Rosemarie DeWitt) has cohabitation anxiety that manifests as an aversion to physical contact; writer-director Lynn Shelton’s character dramedy is built around a metaphor that can only be described as heavy-handed. As observational ensemble comedy, however, the director’s dippy fable practically bests Portlandia, with supporting characters like a cycle-shop owner (Scoot McNairy) who attributes the success of his tofu dish to using “like, a really special olive oil.” Then the therapist’s straitlaced brother (Josh Pais) inexplicably develops a healing touch that revives his flagging dentistry practice, and Touchy Feely loses sight of the distinction between empathetic ribbing and gullible replication. New Age types will be offended, while the skeptical will roll their eyes and nurse their lower-back pain.
As in her paradoxically looser but sharper Humpday (2009) and Your Sister’s Sister (2011), Shelton has a gift for making actors feel at ease: Allison Janney’s widowed Reiki practitioner is as warm and soothing as a worn flannel shirt, and even Ellen Page, as the dentist’s anxious daughter, manages to let her hair down a tad. But when the filmmaker lines up her characters to confront their respective fears of intimacy, the loosey-goosey vibe clashes with the script’s clunky machinations; like her characters, Shelton doesn’t know what to do when things actually happen.
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