Alternately comic and painful, this compact examination of the frustrations and sexual yearnings of an earthy young woman is a striking debut from award-winning Aussie artist Davida Allen and contains a sock performance from Susie Porter. Medium-length filmlet was a hit at the opening of the Brisbane fest, and not merely because it was made in the city. A strong marketing push from new Oz distrib Niche Pictures could result in good local figures if “Feeling Sexy” is paired with a suitable pic of similar length. Same goes for international exposure, which begins for pic when it unspools at Venice next month.
Allen’s story isn’t a particularly new one, but she brings a freshness and vitality to the tale of a woman finding little but frustration and unhappiness in her search for fulfillment. Pic spans several years with astonishing economy, easily packing in enough material for a full-length feature. But instead of letting scenes and sequences run at a more traditional length, Allen abruptly curtails them, producing instead a series of sometimes too-short vignettes punctuated by black screen as the spunky heroine’s life unfolds.
When the film begins, Vicki (Porter) is an eager art student full of life and optimism. Her openness is candidly depicted in the first sequence, in which she lies in a bathtub reciting “He loves me, he loves me not” as she pulls out pubic hairs. Vicki has set her sights on med student Greg (Tamblyn Lord), but, though she’s ready, willing and able, he’s the type who wants to wait until they’re married. In a flash, she’s celebrating her wedding, but a few seconds later a couple of squalling babies have arrived on the scene.
So, while Greg works 14 hours a day and is on call most nights, Vicki has to give up her painting to cook and clean and wash diapers, while everywhere around her — on TV screens, in the mall — are unencumbered lovers, hugging and kissing.
Inevitably, she takes a lover: a bearded art student (John Donatiu) with a mattress in the back of his van. But a dramatic turn of events causes her to end the relationship and confess everything to Greg. She still has erotic fantasies, however — mostly focusing on a hunky, tattooed guy (George Neumann) she sees at a swimming pool.
Vicki’s determination to overcome the restrictions of domesticity is refreshing in its candor and humor. When the exhausted Greg patiently explains to his amorous wife that “marriage can’t be passionate every minute of the day,” she responds angrily, “I want passion.”
The film’s strength comes from the understanding that, while Vicki’s needs are deeply felt, she’s extremely annoying in her single-minded quest for sexual gratification.
Porter, freckled and chubby, is sensationally good in the leading role — so good that she tends to overwhelm her co-star. Tamblyn’s character comes across as prissy, not helped by the fact that the thesp is given an unconvincing hair-piece to wear in his first, youthful scenes. In fact, you wonder what this terrific woman could possibly see in such a nerd, and the thought tends to diminish interest in the early scenes.
Visually, low-budgeter is most impressive, with Allen’s background as a painter obvious in every frame. Her use of color is bold and dynamic, and the film (shot on 16mm) glows with eroticism.