Touch (1997)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Satire  |   Release Date - Feb 14, 1997 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Karl Williams

The works of writer/director Paul Schrader, famously raised as a strict Calvinist, often possess a subtext, overt or otherwise, of religious faith and related themes, but this satirical comedy is a blatant exploration of modern day piety. Everybody gets their turn on the wheel here, from media stars to fundamentalist hucksters, but despite promising (if admittedly bizarre) source material from novelist Elmore Leonard, director Schrader just can't seem to get the tone right. What should unfold as withering and piercing comic observation comes across as dour, temperate, and overly sober, rendering what's funny about the piece flat and not very absorbing. The two most central characters portrayed by Skeet Ulrich and Bridget Fonda are as bland as tapioca, the actors reading every line and emotional beat with prosaic boredom. They match the enervated pace and tone of the film perfectly, an effect that Schrader was probably trying to achieve consciously in the quest for an existentialist vibe of nonjudgmental egalitarianism. It's an intriguing intellectual pursuit but his less than vigorous spirit probably shouldn't have extended to any efforts to entertain or amuse. Touch (1997) is an artistically valid experiment in filmmaking that fails to engage on any of the many levels to which it aspires; perhaps worst of all, it's not even clear enough in its purpose to offend anybody.