Magnolia Grabs Shelton’s Sundance Entry ‘Touchy Feely’ For the World

Magnolia Grabs Shelton's Sundance Entry 'Touchy Feely' For the World

Magnolia Pictures is back in business with Seattle auteur Lynn Shelton, buying world rights for her fifth feature, the well-acted relationship comedy “Touchy Feely,” which debuted at January’s Sundance Film Festival. (Our video interview with Shelton and star Rosemarie DeWitt is here.) Magnolia released her 2009 breakout comedy “Humpday,” starring Mark Duplass, who co-starred with DeWitt in Shelton’s last film, “Your Sister’s Sister.”

DeWitt’s role in that film earned an Independent Spirit Awards Best Supporting Actress nomination. “Touchy Feely” also stars Josh Pais, Ellen Page, Scoot McNairy, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston and indie rock icon Tomo Nakayama (Grand Hallway).

For Shelton, “Touchy Feely” marks her most
personal film since her 2006 debut “we go way back.” While
Shelton’s last two Sundance entries, the entirely improvised “Humpday,”
and 80% improvised “Your Sister’s Sister,” focused on observing
male/female relationships, this one stars DeWitt as the writer-director’s alterego. Shelton wrote a
script–“this one is from the inside out”– and cast a strong ensemble,
who mixed script and improvisation as they went. “Lynn is the container
and orchestrator,” said DeWitt, “she gives the actors and crew
tremendous freedom.”

The
breakout of the film is Pais, who Shelton met after a Tribeca
screening of Nicole Holofcener’s “Please Give.” “I really discovered the
character as we were shooting,” said Pais (“Arbitrage”). But everyone shines, including improv newbies McNairy, Page and Janney, who was recommended by Catherine
Keener as a replacement when she couldn’t schedule her role. Keener
also connected Shelton with Page, literally, on a car speakerphone. Page
said she felt “humility and excitement” when she saw “Your Sister’s
Sister.” Shelton met Livingston at a condo party at Sundance.

The
film is more intricately plotted than Shelton’s last films, as a
brother (Pais) and sister (DeWitt) each deal with life changes in their
jobs as dentist and masseuse, respectively. His practice suddenly comes
to life when patients believe that he possesses healing powers, while
she ditches her clients when she feels nauseous at the idea of touching
human skin. She’s having doubts about whether to move in with her
boyfriend (McNairy) or with her brother and neice (Ellen Page). As Shelton focuses a
digital camera on each actor for long repeated takes, anything can
happen.

The film was produced by Steven Schardt.

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