Generic title, right? “The Feels”. And did it give me ‘the feels’? Well it turns out that’s a reference to orgasms, so no, but if we’re talking about other kinds of feels, then yes. At times. We’ll get to that…
The Feels (2017, Jenée LaMarque) is a self-described dramedy about a lesbian couple’s bachelorette weekend. Lu drunkenly admits to her fiancée Andi in front of the whole group that she’s never had an orgasm, causing a rift between the couple. This, alongside other unexpected drama, causes tension in the group as the friends and the brides-to-be navigate their relationships.
The narrative is permeated with what appear at first to be Real-Housewives-style confessions from each character. In front of a bizarre but charming orange and red, moose and plants wallpaper, they take turns describing their first orgasm.
Britney Line Time: And I don’t want to explain tonight / All the things I’ve tried to hide / I shut myself out from the world so I / Can draw the blinds and I’ll teach myself to fly
These cutaways, while at times uncomfortable, are a convenient way to give us some more intimate, unfiltered, uninhibited insight into their characters. Furthermore, the pace and frequency of jumps cuts cleverly seem to match the energy of each character. The only one I didn’t enjoy was with Josh, my least favourite character and the out of place str*ight m*n.
On that, The Feels has been praised for its specifically lesbian perspective, but I for one would have liked less Josh and more lesbians. He felt like a plot device more than anything. I know that it’s a refreshing take in cinema for a man to play that role, but I would have liked him to not be there at all. At times it felt that he was invading an otherwise powerfully female queer space.
Top Tip: prepare yourself, and anyone within earshot, for loud lesbian sex from the off
It was only upon checking this film’s Wikipedia page that I discovered that ‘The Feels’ is in fact an improvised comedy, which definitely helps it make a bit more sense. Though to what extent it has been improvised ー dialogue, plot, characters ー is harder to tell. As in a lot of long-form improv, the main plot points take a little while to reveal themselves, which is at times a little laborious. This struggle works out more positively for the characters though, the best ones revealing themselves slowly and growing into their own truths. The following three women fit that description with increasing accuracy.
Helen (Ever Mainard)
Oh Helen. We all need a Helen in our lives. Her entrance has extremely chaotic energy and proceeds one of my favourite ‘this must be improv’ moments when they all greet the arriving couple with spectacularly awkward and infectious hello dances. I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened without Helen there, so we must thank her for it. At first she makes you cringe, but in time you come to realise she’s just unfiltered and wears her heart on her sleeve. And she gifts Lu and Nikki (my other two faves) a blunt wrapped in gold, the significance of which really can’t be underplayed. To quote reality TV mastermind Tiffany “New York” Pollard, she’s the only bitch in that house that I ever respected. Ever Mainard is the only actor to have won awards for this film (at least according to Wikipedia), and that feels correct. Some of the other friends have their moments….
Biggest Gay Mood: singing acapella in a crowded restaurant unprovoked
…but none of them are like Helen. Maybe she could feature alongside Eyebrows from I Am (Onir, 2010) in a breakout stars of Every Gay Movie on Netflix special? Watch this space.
Lu (Angela Trimbur)
Because we start the film with Andi’s confessional, Lu at first just feels like the other one. Still, she really comes into her own as the narrative progresses. The more sensitive and reserved of the two, she struggles with communicating her needs to Andi, culminating of course in the central plot point of not having told her fiancée that she’s never had an orgasm. The principal argument between Andi (‘talk to me about your feelings’) and Lu (‘be easier to talk to’) is refreshingly nuanced. Trimbur plays her character’s anxiety with complexity and heart, and any breakthroughs feel earned. Her relationship with her sister is, for me, a highlight.
Nikki (Jenée LaMarque)
I’m not sure I can ever blame a director for giving themselves the best role because I’m sure I would do the same thing. And it cannot be denied that Jenée LaMarque does a fantastic job as Lu’s ‘hot mess express’ of a sister: Nikki. Arriving late to the bachelorette weekender, her tense relationship with Lu is immediately apparent. But then her character truly transforms throughout the weekend, as her relationship with her sister blossoms through honest and authentic communication. Even though she changes, she still feels like the same person. She makes her mistakes, but owns up to them and in doing so brings the group closer together. You know what that is? Growth. And a beautiful character arc. We love to see it.
The Feels’ best moments occur when there is a clear sense of direction. Occasionally as an audience member I was put off thinking ‘oh where are we going here?’, but it always managed to find its feet again. One-on-one scenes, like the breakthrough moment between Lu and Nikki shown in the header, are where the improv shines. As in live improv, group scenes struggled a little more, either with characters speaking over one another or with no one speaking at all.
Look, I’m not forever changed. I didn’t cry with sadness or laughter at any point, and I don’t feel shaken to my core with emotional impact. But it was fine. There were some great moments, (all of which centred around my main girls Helen, Lu and Nikki) and there were some mildly uncomfortable ones. But most of the time it was nice. A bit generic Indie, but nice.