An AIDS movie with optimism, “Touch Me” is a romantic drama dealing with issues such as fear, acceptance and commitment within a heterosexual relationship shaken by a life-threatening illness. While it contains a pointed homage to “Imitation of Life,” the film’s emotional pull is a far cry from the Douglas Sirk league. Its attractive leads and involving troubled-love story should be appreciated on cable and video.
An actress who also teaches aerobics at an L.A. health club, Bridgette (Amanda Peet) initially resists the overtures of idle playboy Adam (Michael Vartan), who distractedly runs the gym for his father. Her life shifts onto a more contented track when she gives in to the inevitable passion between them, at the same time landing the lead role in a David Mamet play. But a call from friends of a former lover dying of AIDS-related causes casts a cloud.
While agonizing over the need to have herself HIV tested, Bridgette stumbles onto what she believes is a tryst between Adam and another woman. She backs off angrily, going through the test and the weeklong wait for results alone. Learning she is positive, she falls apart.
Writer-director H. Gordon Boos’ script perhaps simplifies some of the mechanics of the illness, but it provides a sober, reasonably moving examination of the alienation and anxiety of living with HIV through Bridgette’s struggle to regain her grip in the face of ignorance, prejudice and her suddenly fragile mortality.
Story also addresses the role of support and love via unexpectedly devoted Adam’s persistent campaign to get back into her life and by the solidarity of other characters, including terminal AIDS patient Kareen (Erica Gimpel) and concerned friend David (former Olympic diver Greg Louganis). Character development could perhaps have been stronger, but the cast generally is fine.