Felt (2014) Film Review, a movie directed by Jason Banker, and starring Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, Ryan Creighton, Elisabet Ferrara, Roxanne Lauren Knouse, Merkley, Brendan Miller, Allana Reynolds, Tony Ruiz, Mark Skubala and Brandileigha Stracner
Coming out of Fantastic Fest, there was an Austin Texas sized buzz surrounding Jason Banker’s latest film, Felt. After the film’s premiere, Felt’s incisive look at rape culture sparked numerous reviews and think pieces. Felt is an unquestionably unique film; it openly defies the utilization of a traditional narrative structure and allows a first time actor’s (Amy Everson) performance to anchor the entire movie. Felt is an art house flick through and through. Banker leans heavily on the enthralling performance of Everson to keep his narratively diffuse film afloat.
The film introduces us to Amy as a woman recovering from a trauma, one that haunts her in her dreams and causes a schism between herself and her friends. From the outside looking in, Amy is an ambitionless slacker, meandering through life. As we slowly get to know Amy, we find her to be an intelligent young woman who is unable to recover from some unexplained trauma. Amy spends her days in the Northern California woods, dressing up as phallus-bespoken alter egos and trying to reassemble the pieces of herself that she lost when her suffering shattered her soul.
After several painful attempts at finding someone in the hip, young, twenty-something dating scene, Amy meets Kenny (Kentucker Audley). Despite their initial meeting resulting in Amy and her cohort ejecting Kenny from their car, a tender bond slowly builds between Amy and Kenny. Kenny is funny, patient and endears himself to Amy in such a way that her healing process seems to be accelerating. As Amy’s life finally begins to reach some tiny semblance of normalcy, a dark secret emerges that threatens to tear her new world apart.
Felt is a film about consequences. Banker begins his film at the point where most movies cut ties with one of their brutalized women. The film is a thematic successor to many of the slasher-type flicks that so often casually beat down, batter and bruise women before a square-jawed, hyper-masculine hero swoops in to save his virginal prize. Cinema trains audiences to look on as throwaway female characters are victimized by horrific acts of violence. Audiences spent the past three decades watching countless Jason Voorhees style characters slaughter bikini clad camp counselors without giving thought to the repercussions. Films reduce women to targets; just like chum thrown into the ocean to spark feeding frenzies, movies throw 2-dimensional women up on screen to satisfy the audience’s bloodlust. Felt tells the story of what happens to a survivor after she escapes those shark-infested waters.
The film is at its best when it paints a clear picture of how the persistent threat of violence hangs over women’s heads like a guillotine. Even when surrounded by friends, Amy never feels safe. In one scene, a group of men’s well-intentioned gesture of offering Amy and her friends a drink is enough to set of Amy’s warning bells. While Amy’s friends view her fears as irrational, Amy’s personal experience taught her how victimization can come from anyone at any time, most likely by someone close. As the audience, we ride along with Amy and are privy to how she sees every single encounter with a man as an iron door, with the man on the other side more likely to be a boogeyman than prince charming.
Banker grounds his film with an ultra-realistic shooting style. Amy Everson is a first time actor, much of the dialogue is improvised and the shaky camera pans to and fro in a manic documentary style, all of which lend the film a real world authenticity. The film exists somewhere between traditional fictional storytelling and a documentary, resulting in a lazily paced narrative netherworld. Scenes bleed into one another with no sense of purpose and none of the characters aside from Amy leaves any type of lasting impression after the credits roll. Felt’s attempt to offer realism comes at the expense of developing rich characters and a complex narrative. Although some are classifying Felt in the horror genre, the film feels more like a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll than a Friday night thrill ride.
Visually, Felt does not do anything with the camera that demands the eye’s attention. From the film’s hand held, shaky cam style to its washed out, muted colors, Felt doesn’t offer any visual panache. The dull visual tone of the film could be attributed to Amy’s posttraumatic malaise, but is much more likely a symptom of the film’s budget. It’s a shame that the film’s visual aesthetic is so unappealing as the Bay Area shooting location is ripe with spectacular visuals. It seems that a director would have to go out of their way to make shooting in the Northern Californian woods look so dreary and uninviting. Sadly, there are no stand out moments that pop off the screen or linger in your mind after the film is over.
Jason Banker’s Felt, looks to deliver an urgent message to the audience in a frustratingly languid fashion. Felt will come flying in hot from left field at anyone looking to get some traditional storytelling in their rape/revenge films. For those looking for some slow-burning, thought provoking insight into the emotional toll that acts/threats of violence take upon women, Felt will be a solid investment of 80-minutes.
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