The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



On Saturday Night Live, Cecily Strong does a character called “Girl at a Party You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With.” The joke is that, half-drunk, she believes the nonsense she's spouting is profound. Felt reminds me a lot of that character. Director Jason Banker's feature repeatedly presents itself as some kind of Important Statement about the abuse of women in society, yet it does so in a manner that offers no actual substance. It's a stunningly tedious work. If a friend tries to convince you to see this movie, run away as fast as you can and never speak to that person again.

Co-writer Amy Everson plays Amy, a young woman who is tired of being “objectified and discredited” by men. She dislikes men thinking they can just grope a woman whenever they want to. Fair enough. Amy's response to this is to put on a cheap-looking homemade costume and assume a male alter ago. With a giant penis hanging from it, she trolls around in the woods and in a cemetery. At home, she makes felt penises, which she then pokes with a needle. One day, she meets a seemingly nice guy named Kenny (Kentucker Audley) and begins dating him. Something happens in their relationship that triggers Amy, sending her into a dark, dark place. The end. Literally. The movie just abruptly ends after she does something horrifying.

Felt is extremely frustrating to watch. There are scenes in the movie, but no story. Everything that happens is disjointed, and the various elements are not connected in any meaningful way that accumulates drama. Most movies carry you along from scene to scene, assembling a plot in layers so that, when you get to the end, there's some kind of satisfying payoff. Not this one. It presents individual moments, generally free of a larger context, one after the other. As such, there's no entry point for the audience, no way of becoming emotionally invested in what's happening.

Similarly, there are people in this movie, but no characters. Human beings say lines and attempt to simulate human emotions. But who are they and what do they feel? Nothing is developed enough to answer those questions. It isn't clear why Amy is creating this male alter ego for herself, nor is the psychology behind her actions even remotely understandable. She simply seems like a weirdo. Everything is presented at face value: Men are bad. They hurt women. Here, look! There's no doubt that misogyny exists in our culture. It is a very real problem. But simply pointing out the problem is not the same as exploring it. Felt seems to equate the two, which is its fatal flaw.

That and inexplicable, distracting weirdness. Felt is filled with artificial penises and vaginas. They're everywhere. When Amy celebrates a birthday, her friends make her emerge from a fake vagina and then eat a vagina cake. The symbolism is so relentlessly heavy-handed that even the most clueless of viewers won't avoid the feeling of being bludgeoned. Then there's the scene where Amy, for no reason I could ascertain, shows up in a hotel room where a male photographer is taking pictures of a nude female model. Before long, she and the model begin passing gas, then rubbing their posteriors over the bed pillows, much to the guy's consternation.

Felt is ostensibly about rape culture. I say “ostensibly” because it adds nothing new to the conversation. Amy eventually snaps, and her ultimate act is literally the most obvious thing you could think of. Worst of all, there's something uncomfortably hypocritical about the way things unfold. Rape is not a crime of sex, but of anger and hatred. Amy eventually gets to the place where those feelings are dominant within her, yet we're apparently supposed to view her – in her homemade man costume - as empowered. Is it okay for a woman to act with the same sort of malice as a man, simply because she's been hurt? I would argue no, that such behavior is unacceptable in any form. Felt seems to suggest that men deserve whatever bad karma they get because they're all a bunch of bastards anyway.

Or perhaps I'm misreading everything. It's hard to say, because Felt is so poorly done that you could read almost anything into it. There's just no clarity, and therefore no impact, other than creating a sense of relief when the end credits start to roll.

(1/2 star out of four)

Felt is unrated, but contains language, violence, sexuality, and more penises/vaginas than you can shake a stick at. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.

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