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Rosemarie DeWitt

‘Touchy Feely’: Lynn Shelton’s Low-Key Charmer

[Originally published in Seattle Weekly, September 2013]

What compelling mysteries might be quietly thrumming inside the world of the dentist’s office? It is characteristic of the wistful, daydreamy universe of Lynn Shelton’s films that this unlikely question (has anyone outside the dental profession ever asked it?) makes up part of her latest project. Touchy Feely is the stubbornly—and, I think, wonderfully—low-key follow-up to Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister, the partly improvised comedies that put Shelton on the indie-movie map. This new one is again shot in Seattle, Shelton’s hometown. Two siblings experience unexplained eruptions in their professional skills: Massage therapist Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt, from Your Sister’s Sister) is suddenly repulsed by the touch of human skin, and dentist Paul (Josh Pais) develops magical healing powers that can cure his patients’ jaw problems.

These phenomena are suspiciously related to the everyday issues afflicting the two, as Abby has been dawdling over an invitation to move in with her boyfriend Jesse (Scoot McNairy), and Paul has passively allowed his practice to dwindle because of his super-awkward manner. Meanwhile, Paul’s college-age daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) is trapped in her job as a dental assistant, and carries around an unrequited crush on someone who probably won’t return the feeling.

Except for the magical-realist touches, this story does not break new ground, and its resolutions are not surprising. But in the film’s exactly observed living rooms and offices, something human is going on, in a way too many movies don’t get. Maybe this film is about the need to see people in a new way, which also describes Shelton’s deep-tissue work with actors. For instance, veteran character actor Pais has dozens of movie and TV credits, yet this is a breakout role for him (if the word “breakout” applies to a movie this languid). And Page, easily typed as a brittle comic performer after Juno, has never been more vulnerable and touching.

If Touchy Feely were a European film and had subtitles, it would probably get better reviews; it has audience-friendly moments, but mostly this is about mood and place. And speaking of place, Shelton’s filming in Pugetopolis is never pictorial, but always sunk into authentically lived-in locations. You’ve been to this dentist’s office before, though you might never have suspected what went on there.

Film Review: ‘Digging for Fire’

Rosemarie DeWitt

The final credit on Digging for Fire is a dedication to the late Paul Mazursky, the director of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and An Unmarried Woman and other bittersweet comedies of manners. It can be presumptuous for a young filmmaker—here mumblecore maven Joe Swanberg—to invoke a predecessor. But in this case, fair enough. Digging for Fire has aspects that do indeed recall Mazursky’s movies: a sunburnt L.A. location, an undercurrent of satire directed at its floundering characters, and close attention to actors. Some pretentiousness, too, although in this case everything goes down pretty easily.

While Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt, of Touchy Feely) house-sit in a rambling mansion far above their pay grade (she’s a yoga instructor to a rich person who’s lent them the place for a while), they decide to spend a weekend apart.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

‘Your Sister’s Sister’: A Different Kind of Family Affair

Rosemarie DeWitt and Emily Blunt

If Woody Allen had been a woman born and raised in the Great Damp of the Pacific Northwest, Lynn Shelton might have been his name. Your Sister’s Sister warms the comedic cockles through sharp, largely improvised dialogue and quirky emotional connection among three not-quite-grown-up 30-somethings (Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt), friends, relations and lovers who accidentally come to share a cabin in the woods for a week or so.

This crowd-pleasing chamber dramedy, Shelton’s first film since Humpday (2009), takes all the time it needs—suffering a bit of narrative sag in its middle—to reveal “family” secrets and resolve a Shakespeare-lite comedy of errors, while meandering toward sort-of reunion. (Trust me, Duplass was born to play Shakespeare’s Bottom.) Funny, confessional talk among folks whose suffering is mostly manageable builds a glow as fragile and transitory as midsummer fireflies, putting you in the mood to be forgiving when spontaneity goes south in favor of an unconvincing, hippie-dippy finish.

Continue reading at MSN Movies