Despite the go-go title, “Full Body Massage” plays for serious when a woman’s regular masseur is a no-show and a stand-in arrives in his place. Tripping a bit over its pretentiousness, the telefilm ambitiously aims to uplift; Showtime and the producers are to be applauded for an honest try.
Filmed by Littman-Gurskis-Nolin Prods. Executive producer, Robert Littman; producers, Michael Nolin, Julie Bilson Ahlberg; director, Nicolas Roeg; writer, Dan Gurskis; Vet director Nicolas Roeg wastes no time exploring the world of art gallery owner Nina (Mimi Rogers), buxom, maturing soul who’s butting heads with herself. Life is “very pleasant in a grim sort of way,” she assures housekeeper Dee Dee (Heather Gunn).
Nina’s late afternoon massage appointment turns out to be with the older Fitch (Bryan Brown), not golden boy Douglas (Christopher Burgard), to whom she’s attracted, but she agrees without much hesitation — with no check on Fitch’s identity. As Fitch works, she keeps fantasizing about the younger masseur — until Fitch reveals something, possibly purposefully, about the absent Douglas.
Nina doesn’t know Fitch, but she lies naked on his massage table and lets him talk methodically of her failings, of his own life, of a loss he suffered and of his hopefulness. Rogers, quite wonderful as the weary but hopeful Nina, fences verbally with Brown’s Fitch. Their conversation goes esoteric, spotlighting negative force, crystals, religion and mysticism — everything but Schopenhauer — and Nina’s lethargic thinking equipment mulls over the ideas. In Brown’s capable hands, Fitch comes alive but stays aloof, playing against Nina’s glib self-indulgences.
Director Roeg, taking full measure of writer Dan Gurskis’ adventuresome drama , gathers strong perfs from his cast. Anthony Richmond’s attentive camerawork spots nuances and style.
Designer Jeffrey T. Schell uses Nina’s aggressively contemporary house as a reflection of how lost she is, and Louise Rubacky sets an admirable pace with her editing. Schell’s interiors are reflections of Nina’s blase views, and Harry Gregson-Williams’ restrained score plays elegantly off the action.
Vidpic is an ambitious attempt to create an art film, and if the work doesn’t come off 100%, it’s because, like Nina, it is intuitive, not intellectual — no matter how hard it tries to be deep. “Full Body Massage” explores regions seldom approached in contemporary TV dramas; for that contribution, Gurskis and Roeg deserve kudos.