Believe it or not, having possibly read some of my previous negative reviews, it is hardly ever that I take enjoyment in not liking a film. I pretty much want all films that I watch to be at least good, if not the picture of rip-roaring entertainment or interesting and artful films.
In FELT, from the Final Girls Film Festival, starring and co-written by Amy Everson, co-starring Kentucker Auder, Elisabeth Ferrara, Ryan Creighton, and Roxanne Knauss, directed and co-written by Jason Banker, I have a film that I can say only that I wish it was better.
I see the ideas and can appreciate them, but I cannot say that I am emotionally connected to any of the character’s plights. Unfortunately, I knew pretty much where the film was going from the start and about halfway through, I knew exactly what was going to happen and how it was going to end. That ending, while meant to be upsetting, left me completely cold.
The story is this: Amy, a troubled young woman, is disconnected from all but her closest friend due to some past trauma. Her best friend tells others that she is an artist and she is, an artist who constructs felt costumes to wear that have hoods with distorted faces and are naked with the requisite female and male genitalia. Amy tends to wear the ones with male genitalia and when finally dragged into the company of others, tends to make wild statements, about violence and murder, in a toneless affect. While I suspect that this was intended as perhaps a gender reversal of the bad behavior of boorish males, in the hands of Everson – a novice actor, it seems more like she is the manic pixie nightmare girl. After a confrontation with a friend’s aggressive boyfriend, she retreats after telling the friend, a woman, that she deserves to be treated better, a laudable sentiment. One of the insults hurled her way was that she was not a successful and productive member of society as an artist and soon she is working as a costumed performer, a chicken, for a restaurant trying to bring customers in. While doing so she becomes again acquainted with a man she had met previously, Kenny, and after a rough start, Amy lets her defenses down and they begin a romance.
This is the most charming and believable part of the film as there seems to be a real affinity between the two. However, Roxanne, a model that Amy met during a somewhat creepy naked photo shoot that turns into a farting contest, spoils this idyll. The previous scene with Roxanne is one of the other funny and more emotionally valid scenes. There is a reason why both of these scenes are notable. Amy Everson, as an actor, seems to connect most strongly to the actors, Kentucker Auder and Roxanne Knauss, and therefore the scenes are more believable. The rest of the time, she seems to be doing more telegraphing of emotions rather than feeling them naturally, which disconnects the viewer from the story, the characters, and empathy with both.
The film seems to be in the style of late-period mumblecore realism and the cinematography is good and technically there is nothing really wrong with the film. It is the lack of connection to most of the characters and the story that makes it a bit of a slog.
FELT is not a film that I can recommend although there are some performances that are good and not all the ideas are bad, they are mostly underdeveloped like the central performance. One of the things that I found to be counter to what I feel is the central theme is the use of the male costumes as central to her acting out. While it seems like this is a woman who is trying to reclaim her power after a horrific trauma, the fact is that the film seems to relate the claiming of power with the male member and male aggressiveness. Because of this, I can’t say that this is truly a story with a feminist theme. Male genitalia doesn’t make you stronger and it seems to play into some of the worst stereotypes of the “butch feminist”, that feminists despise males and want to be men. Perhaps there was another point, but if so, it is lost in the execution of the film itself.