Paul N., Here…
Rape. Rape is a terrible word, a terrible concept, a terrible experience. Just talking about it can make people of all walks of life extremely uncomfortable. It is shown in films to paint antagonists in the most horrible of lights. So, it comes as no surprise that an entire film devoted to the emotional and mental effects of the victim is, to put it lightly, difficult to watch. As it turns out, it is equally as difficult to film. What should be a poignant and gripping tale of life after, turns into a horrible (emphasis on the horror) and jumbled mess of a film trapped in itself.
‘Felt‘ is listed as a thriller (and even as a romance?!), but it really has no right to be. There is nothing thrilling about this film, save for the last few moments where the audience holds its collective breath to see what she’ll do. There is a quasi-documentary style approach to it, but again not quite. The difficulty in categorizing this film is just a perfect summation of the problems encapsulating its entirety. It can’t easily be quantified because it is truly just a jumbled mess.
Take for example the story. There really is none. The film centers around Amy (played by the film’s co-writer, Amy Everson), a young artist who is attempting to cope with life after such a horrific event. She is strange, to say the least, and causes those closest to her no small amount of grief. She eventually meets a perfect gentlemen who seems to have just the right qualities to bring her back up again and repair her broken heart. But, as certain things are brought to life, her euphoria is quickly shattered, sending her deeper into the abyss than ever before. That’s it. There is no cohesive story uniting the film together. It is a jumbled mix of scenes where Amy acts strangely in various social situations to the growing annoyance of those around her. With no story, there is no character development. We learn very little about Amy, other that the aforementioned. We know even less about the friends she surrounds herself with. There is, for example, a completely out of place scene with a skuzzy photographer in a hotel room late at night. We are given no motive for this scene, and it seems completely out of character for what little we actually know about Amy’s character. The random hodgepodge of sewn-together sequences such as these destroy any credibility or chance that this film could have at painting a cohesive message.
The film sacrifices story and character development for the sake of art and the deeper message. Unfortunately, that deeper message is lost in a sea of extremely shallow and obvious visual representations of symbolism that permeate every corner of the film. It is clear that the event was traumatic for her, as it would be. However, there is such a thing as too much in a film. The sheer abundance of these symbols is complete over-saturation. Audiences will likely think “we get it, get on with it!” very early on in the film. To give some perspective: every single piece of art Amy creates concerns human genitalia. Male and female anatomy covers every inch of her bedroom. At one point, she shows off her collection to her beau, handing him a life-size replica of a human heart that she’s crafted. “Careful,” she cautions him as the audience inwardly groans, “it’s very fragile.” She spends a great deal of her time alone in the woods, wearing an anatomically correct male body suit she crafted.
With such a sensitive subject, you want to feel for Amy. You want to empathize, but the film leaves no room to do so. You won’t hate her, but you aren’t given anything about her other than she’s been victimized sexually in some way. The film doesn’t let you in. This may be done intentionally to mirror the difficulty in relating to someone who has experienced such tragedy, but this could just as easily be giving the film too much credit. Based on the entirety of the film, I tend to think the latter. You watch early on (in one of the film’s better scenes) as she patiently puts up with the idiotic ramblings of a would-be suitor during the course of a date. While he waxes philosophical about the “need to be totally honest”, the dramatic irony thickens with each syllable he utters. You can almost feel his foot inching closer to his mouth with each word. You wait for her to, rightfully so, blow up at him as you feel she surely must. But this sort of social commentary is lost in a barrage of other less coherent scenes like her boyfriend leading her to a vagina-themed birthday party, complete with anatomically correct cake (you read that sentence right). By the film’s end credits, you are disgusted with Amy. She has become the very thing that the film purports to hate. In the end, her drastic (that’s not even a strong enough word) actions prove she is little better than the circus of horrible men she repeatedly speaks of killing. How confusingly hypocritical that the film should have its lead devolve into the very thing she stands against. It is a sad and unnecessarily drastic conclusion to a film that began with so much promise.
In the end, what would be a serious, jarring, and thought-provoking look at rape culture, is lost in a sea of shallow symbolism, mixed messages, and non-existent story. It will surely stay with you long after the credits, but for all the wrong reasons.
½ Anatomically Correct Body Suit out of 5
– Paul Nimon