“FELT” (Movie Review)Home,Movies/TV,News,Reviews Heather Buckley
TOAD ROAD director Jason Banker and performance artist Amy Everson blend elements of real life and fiction to create FELT, a character study exploring the cycle of suffering and coping under a curtain of misogyny.
The storytelling approach of FELT (in theaters today and available on digital/VOD July 21 from Amplify Releasing) is unique in that the creation of partially fictional selves is usually found in the worlds of postmodern journalism (as in Hunter S. Thompson’s canon) and literature (Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD). Stand-up comedians also have a long history of playing altered versions of themselves. In FELT, this “play” on reality elevates the material to something profound.
Amy (Everson) has been traumatized by past events that are never spoken of; we view the world through her coping mechanisms of play. She creates fantastic outfits and strolls around the woods and the streets and amongst her friends in these costumes. She has a treehouse, and strong boundaries regarding who and when to touch, as we see during the dates her friends try to get her to go on, the general failure of which only reinforces her need to escape and protect herself. Amy eventually finds someone who leads her to drop her guard, Kenny (Kentucker Audley): He understands her need to dress up, and the strange art creations in her apartment. They share time and intimacy together until a secret is revealed, as they often are in the very moments of joy.
During her walks in the woods, Amy wears a mask and a body suit sporting a phallus, and this organ plays a symbolic and physical role in FELT. It can be surmised that Amy has been hurt many times (by men) and has developed a safe place, and it’s up to the audience to decide whether she’s finding empowerment through something viewed as painful. Or is she trying to explore the role of the pain-maker? She wears fake female genitals to a sex shoot rather than expose her body—not out of shame, but, again, as a form of dress-up in which she is safe from her past.
Banker’s blend of documentary-style observation and narrative here marks an improvement over TOAD ROAD, in which a group of young adults binge on drugs and take the titular path to the “Seven Gates of Hell.” Both films use similar techniques of finding real places/personal backgrounds to begin their tales and the use of the actors’ actual names in these fictional scenarios. While TOAD ROAD never finds a resolution due to its lack of story content, FELT finds its strength in eccentric character-building, Everson’s hypnotic presence, strong ideas and a point of view that gives the audience something to grab onto, to gain insight and understand this fictional landscape. As Amy plays throughout the film in costume and with her dolls, so the movie is at play with questions of fiction and fact. Together, as an audience, we piece together Amy’s life through moments captured throughout, how she talks about her suffering and her time alone with Kenny. We start to understand this artist and come to love her, and she becomes our center.
Without giving anything away, FELT’s ending is tonally discordant and betrays the character Banker and Everson have so carefully established. While the scene itself is well-executed, emotionally and visually striking, it isn’t sufficiently set up. It’s too much of a jump and isn’t earned, and it’s unfortunate that this almost film-student-level cliché should mar an otherwise bold, unusual film.
FELT is a film for patient viewers, an audience that enjoys watching an eccentric in love; in exploring her traumas, the movie perhaps opens us up to explore our own. In her dance, we can see colors of ourselves and the dream we buy into that love makes everything perfect—which is why interacting with costumes and dolls might be the safest choice and people, the humans that we are, may be the most dangerous. Made out of real concerns and fictionalized events, FELT plays to the heart as well as to the gut—it’s something of a dream, a tone poem, and it’s one-of-a-kind.
See our interview with Banker and Everson on FELT here.