Published February 1, 1998
I Love You, Don’t Touch Me is a charming little film by Julie Davis that has intelligence, wit, humor, good acting, good writing, good music and almost all things going for it —apart from being facile and unconvincing in its main point. This is that, as the gorgeous heroine, Katie (Marla Schaffel)—who is of course supposed to be a wallflower who can’t get dates—puts it in the final frames, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs—or, in the ’90s f*** a lot of frogs—before you find your prince.” Not only is this apology for promiscuity dubious on its own grounds, it is not even borne out by the picture. Katie in the end only has to f*** one frog before discovering that her ideal man is the guy who loved her from the beginning
But it is still a reasonably enjoyable chick flick, of the what’s-wrong-with-men? sub-genre, for single girls. We don’t expect it to look into these matters deeply, but with a sort of woman’s magazine sensibility (Cosmo is here referred to as “the Bible”) and a certain amount of wit, and this it does. Katie, who is Afraid To Love, is a young singer trying to make it as a lounge singer (and some of her songs are really very pretty) and working as a temp. She is best friends with a boy (see My Best Friend’s Wedding) called Ben (Mitchell Whitfield) who is in love with her but whom she only wants to see as a friend.
Katie fixes Ben up with her friend, the sexually voracious Janet (Meredith Scott Lynn), and becomes suddenly jealous when they click. She in turn takes up with a much older successful composer called Richard Weber (Michael Harris) and loses her virginity to him. When she finds (surprise!) that he is a roué, she has another bout of self doubt and, ultimately, the epiphany that Ben is the guy for her. Luckily, Janet has characteristically tired of him in the meantime. It is obviously very lightweight fare, but worth it both for the lovely Miss Schaffel and for a number of witty lines, my favorite of which is this example of a bad pickup line: “My therapist says I’m a great catch.”
I also like that there is a role for Katie’s mother as the voice of reason, telling Katie that her generation has turned to “narcissism under the guise of liberation.” For a moment Katie is moved to consider whether her man-trouble might be “punishment for my narcissism,” but then she meets her composer. Besides, there is too much mother-daughter tension between them for her to take her mother that seriously. A pity, because the idea could have been the means of taking the film to a deeper level. Instead we have Ben’s theory that women are divided into “heart givers” and “heart protectors”—Janet being the first and Katie the second. It is not clear that Miss Davis herself even realizes that Ben learns the hard way that everybody is a “heart protector” in her own way—and what that implies for the larger themes of her film.
By that I mean that the evil of promiscuity for women is that it forces them to build emotional defenses which do not always come down when they finally meet Mr Right. And when Mr Right is treated like just another in the parade of a woman’s lovers, he sees less and less point to contracting for a lifetime with her, or for sticking to the contract if he does—a devastating datum for families and children. Just a hint that Miss Davis could see off in the middle distance the looming presence of the hugely important forces she is playing with here would have made this film a lot better, but all she has to offer is a vague sense of discontent with the way things are. Yet, these days, even that much is enough to make this a movie worth watching.