Amy is an artist who spends her spare time dressed in a costume so that she can feel like someone else. Her past has screwed up her view of men and now she's attempting to get through the traumas.
It's been a year since we "Toad Road", a previous indie hit by filmmaker Jason Banker, and nearly 10 months since we decided it was one of the best movies of last year. Obviously "Toad Road" wasn't just luck - it was well beyond that - but would his next feature be able to reach the same heights? I decided to not get too hyped up for this one, and kept my "research" vague, to be fully invested once I finally got to see it.
Where "Toad Road" took some liberties and became a very creepy, eerie experience, "Felt" keeps us much closer to reality. The movie is about Amy, a young artist (or weirdo, if you were to ask the people around her), and her struggle with life, her body and men. She seeks solace in homemade costumes, to emotionally feel like she's not herself anymore. Her most common costume to put on is that of a naked man. When Amy meets Kenny she finally feels as though she can trust a man and be herself around him.
"Felt" feels like it's somewhere between a quirky indie comedy and an early Ming-liang Tsai film. There are many funny moments in the movie, but it's not really a comedy though. It is weird and quirky though. From the opening sequence and up until the finale we're treated to a very somber journey of an emotionally scarred woman. She dreams of putting a needle up the urethra of a penis, so it's easy to reach the conclusion that she has a strange past involving men. But the movie goes further than just showing that she has unresolved issues with men - we see her insecurities and we see her change her "skin". But we also see strengths in Amy, though they manifest themselves in her power to be herself.
The movie takes a while to fully introduce us to Amy, and for a while it seemed like the point was to just experience what Amy experiences. It's when Amy meets another woman, at a photo shoot, who seems like an outsider herself that we finally get to the meat of "Felt". It's when we see who Amy is when she's with someone who gets her, but it's also when she finally gets to face her traumas. Later that same night she and her new friend meet Kenny, and the movie takes a turn into a quirky romance. Except, the good kind. One where we're rooting for the lead because we've been through her miserable existence, and we want it to change. But Amy's scars are too deep to heal, as the ending might show.
I'm positive that if you enjoyed "Toad Road" then this is a movie for you. It might be just as good, at times even better, than the wonderful "Toad Road", and that's huge. I think that "Toad Road" was more unique, but Jason Banker teamed up with Amy Everson have created a much more relatable and grounded, but also an even darker, movie. We become one with the lead character in a way that "Toad Road" didn't quite succeed with.
Jason Banker's cinematic style is to let us witness the mental state of a person. We feel it and become part of it. In "Toad Road" it was more of the existential atmosphere surrounding the characters and the events, and in "Felt" we're becoming part of Amy and her struggle, following her into the darkness. He has managed to take full advantage of his style with "Felt". Before it's over, we feel as crazy and weird as Amy.
"Felt" offers a little bit of everything. It has quirky, somewhat immature comedy bits - sometimes involving farts or graphic nude costumes of gaping vaginas (or paintings of Goatse), it has the troubled young artist angle, it sways between sad and happy - back and forth, it's visually intriguing and at the same time it keeps a naturalistic style to it. The movie's title is highly appropriate, it's a movie that feels. It's has a bit of ambiguity, but I don't think the intent was to be ambiguous in the same way that an arthouse movie often tries to - this just left out whatever Amy didn't feel like sharing. This is not a movie for everyone, but I do think it's a movie for the Film Bizarro crowd.