Wow, where do I begin? Well, I can start by saying this is not a good first date film, or one you’d want to see with your parents. Despite its etherial visuals and seemingly innocent mumblecore-driven scenes, Felt is an art house-meets-horror film that’s equal parts kooky and creepy, and not in the best of ways. An unnerving and unusual film dealing within the genre of rape/revenge culture, Felt is an unobtrusive look into the world of a young adult who makes her way through life by, after experiencing such a tragic event, adapting a male alter-ego, which is her way of coping with a form of PTSD that affects everyone around her. It is an extremely large pill to swallow that will definitely leave you with images you wish you could get out of your brain.
In her sophomore film, artist Amy Everson (www.amyeverson.com) plays Amy Everson, a San Francisco based artist who is struggling with depression. It’s unclear what specifically traumatized her, but it becomes blatantly obvious that it was of a sexual nature. I make this assumption because for half of the film, Amy is dressed in a full-length nude leotard with drawn on nipples, a cut up facemask and a faux penis. She converses with her friends in a man’s mask, she wanders through the forrest as a “male,” and even creates an overly large vagina out of fabric and wears it over her underwear during a nude photo shoot. Yes, it is shocking, but its authenticity is hard to validate- clearly Amy’s desperate to escape reality, but it’s unclear how much of her actions are honest and how much are for show.
The shock factor is high, every scene adds even more tension, but look past the faux penis and we’re left with a story with no emotional attachment to our main character, no conclusion to her actions, and ultimately, no point.
Amy goes from sympathetic to grating as she progressively becomes more disheveled. When she befriends a boy named Kenny (Kentucker Audley), she introduces him to her art pieces, including: a Hitler fetus, ceramic plates of a man spreading his buttocks, a gas mask, and underwear with a faux banana hanging from the crotch, among other oddities. If the goal is female empowerment, then her message gets lost amongst the genitalia hanging from her bedroom. She explains that her art is a reflection of the struggles of being a female, but the excessiveness of sexuality in this film is overwhelming to the degree that it is hard to take anything or anyone seriously. Unfortunately, in its quest to be shocking, Felt comes up short. As a stand alone visual performance piece, however, Felt is spot on.
It’s easy to see why this film had a successful run during the festival circuit, its appeal as a true independent film is there. The cast is made up of mostly all amateur actors, a majority of which call Felt their film debut. Jason Banker, the film’s director, is also the producer, editor, cinematographer and screenwriter. The script certainly pushes past comfort and convention and into the territory of discomfort, while remaining light and highly improvised. Hearing synth-pop artist Grimes in the soundtrack certainly ups this film’s hipster/alternative cred, but at the end of the day, it’s mostly just smoke and mirrors. The shock factor is high, every scene adds even more tension, but look past the faux penis and we’re left with a story with no emotional attachment to our main character, no conclusion to her actions, and ultimately, no point.
My theory is that Amy Everson is attempting to fill Miranda July’s quirky shoes in terms of style- both women were/are performance artists before turning to acting and have used the non-actor approach to filmmaking to create really interesting movies. To her credit, Amy is fearless, fully committed to a character with her same name and occupation. Personally, I would find it more interesting to go behind the scenes of the film and discover the real Amy Everson, leaving the naked bodysuit behind. Until then, we’re given this fireball of a film, this psycho-sexual drama that is sure to disturb any sense of normalcy in your day. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.