When a friend texted me at 11:30 on Saturday night to ask if I’d seen Constance Wu’s lesbian indie comedy on Netflix, I assumed I was dreaming and didn’t even revisit the thought until several days later — but lo! Such a lesbian film does, in fact, exist! It’s called The Feels and it’s the story of Andi (Constance Wu) and Lu (Angela Trimbur) and the gaggle of queer and straight pals they drag into the woods in California wine country for their pre-wedding, co-bachelorette party. What could go wrong!
I’ll tell you: Lu makes a drunk and accidental confession that she’s never had an orgasm. Everyone’s floored by the revelation, and especially Andi, who says early on that the sex she has with Lu is the best sex she’s ever had with anyone. In fact, she didn’t know sex could be like this. Everyone tries to help, in their own weird ways, but they’re also all caught up in their own emotional hijinks. Lu’s married sister sleeps with Andi’s best friend, for example. He’s the only dude at the party and he is, predictably: 1) the worst and 2) in love with Andi, a thing he blames on her and criticizes her for. Everyone gets wrapped up in the straight shenanigans, too. The orgasm bomb obviously leads to conversations about a dozen other things: Andi and Lu’s communication style, whether or not they feel safe with each other, what responsibilities they have to make the other person speak up for what they want and need, what other things they’re keeping from each other.
Lesbian mumblecore is practically its own genre at this point, and The Feels glides easily into place alongside Duck Butter, The Intervention, Suicide Kale, etc. with its boundary-less relationships, improvised dialogue, characters who remind you of your own friends, and those stifled hiccups that give way to just enough drama to make the happy ending rewarding. One interesting thing about the way this film’s constructed is each character takes a turn breaking the fourth wall in a confessional-style interview about their first sexual experience and first orgasm. They’re all pretty predictable, except Helen’s, delivered hilariously by queer stand-up comedian Ever Mainard; her character seems a little bit like Kate McKinnon and Fortune Feimster’s bizarro lesbian love child.
This is director/co-writer Jenée LaMarque’s second film (following 2013’s The Pretty One), and she actually raised the funds for it on Kickstarter last summer. Her selling points: She boasted an 80% female cast and a 68% female crew, and she purposefully engineered the film to create opportunities for women, POC and the LGBTQ community. Also: it’s an “improvised comedy about the female orgasm.” Add those stats and that ambition to the fact that she made a highly watchable, brilliantly acted, visually compelling movie and I’m genuinely impressed.
The thing that surprised me the most about The Feels is how relatable it was. I’ve never had Andi and Lu’s specific relationship drama, but I’ve been in that cabin with that friend group more times than I care to count. Surrounded by people you love who also drive you bananas, the family members you constantly judge but need by your side, the lesbians you learn to like just because they’re lesbians, those lesbians lesbianing in the lesbianest ways, and that one dude everyone wants to throw into the river. It’s authentic and it’s tender and while the climax is a little bit rushed — eh hem — it’s a gay happy ending. And that, itself, is still revolutionary.