How Did It Feel?
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How Did It Feel?

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One thing that movies can do is put you in the skin of another person. You can inhabit someone else for a brief time; seeing the world through different eyes and experiencing a reality removed from your own. This is what is attempted in the film ‘How Did It Feel?’ This is a drama centered on a man who is drawn to a woman other than his wife. Now this is a theme as old as recorded history and has been done many times and there is little doubt it will be done many more. The film seems to try to justify the man’s feelings by placing him in the shadow of a far more successful wife. It is true that most cultures are male dominated. It is the man that has to be the bread winner and success in his profession. Many men would find this situation difficult to deal with but it is no excuse for even considering breaking the matrimonial vows. The film has its good moments but overall it is a touchy feely piece that would be well played on the Lifetime Channel. The film tugs on the heart strings a bit too much for a solid drama. It is not that the film is bad; there are a lot worse out there. It is just that the topic is overdone and the people associated with the film have performed at a far better level than presented here.

As with many independent films the writer, director and producer are one in the same, In this case it is Daniel Faraldo. He has been a working actor for over three decades which is a worthy achievement by any standards. He has been on most of the major crime and action series during that time and was featured in the Steven Seagal flick ‘Above the Law’. This is his freshman outing wearing the three hats mentioned above. As a writer he shows a lot of promise. His script does more than border on the melodramatic it runs right over the line. Still, there is some consideration to the emotional state of his characters. Even though the motivations come across as excuses they are fully developed. When you think about many of the motivations people have for less than admirable behavior are really excuses so like it or not this film does portray a situation realistically. As hackneyed as the fundamental plot may be the presentation is fresher than I originally thought possible. There are more than a few elements of a soap opera contained here but that is alright. There is a good reason why soaps last on television decade after decade; they provide emotionally satisfying drama and conflict. At its heart this is a movie about emotionally damaged individuals. Each character is afflicted with some tragic short comings that result in the final confrontation. The theme of an interracial affair is not the hot button topic it was only a few decades ago. This plot line does add a twist to the movie but it is far from being controversial.

As a director Faraldo is from the straight forward, no nonsense school. Thankfully there are no overt film school camera tricks or playing with the lighting to create the mood. He knows he has a talented cast and relies on their talent to get his story across. His framing of the scenes is heavily influenced by all of his television work with close ups to reinforce the emotion impact. It is a rare thing now for a first time director to trust his crew and cast enough to step back. Faraldo lets the story tell itself instead of trying to get artsy about matters. The cinematography is excellent and well constructed. I look forward to his up coming work to watch how this talented director progresses in his new vocations. This was originally written by Faraldo as a play and the direction here reflects that. Most of the shots are set up in a fashion similar to what would be used on the stage. It does give a feeling of intimacy with the audience that helps to carry the film.

The film opens with a woman, Maggie (Natasha Gregson Wagner) grabbing a bottle from the liquor cabinet and going out to the pool to sun. As she sits with her drink in the sun Maggie reads pages from a script for a play. The author is her brother in law (Blair Underwood). She hears voices arguing and scurries to collect the pages, drink and bottle and scurries inside. The voices belong to her sister Kate Nichols (Lucinda Clare) and Kate’s husband, Jesse (Blair Underwood). Maggie hides the bottle, puts on a little wrap and sits reading the pages as they come in. Jesse glances at Maggie’s bare legs with a little grin that Maggie notices. There is message for Jesse and he calls back hoping this will be a break for his play. The news is not about his play but a chance to teach in a university’s drama department. Kate is about to receive a critics award for one of her books. She is not ever sure which one it is for. She is a highly successful author of self help books so it could be for any of the lot.

Slowly the family dynamic begins to unfold. Maggie is the free spirited younger sister. She is overly concerned with her body, freely curses and is generally unable to censor herself allowing any stray thought that happens to pop into her mind to be vocalized. Kate is more organized and repressed. Although they are both born British after fifteen years living in the States Maggie has lost her accent while Kate is proud of hers. Jesse is unhappy; he wants to be a playwright but can’t seem to get one of his works produced. Maggie is overtly sexual and prone to flirting; something that does not go unnoticed by Jesse. Maggie even tries to playfully flirt with Kate. She makes her older sister touch her breasts to see if they are the same size and while dressing drops her clothes and presses against Kate saying they should both have sex with Jesse. Maggie does not consider normal social behavior something that applies to her. One afternoon while Kate is away Jesse is in front of his laptop experiencing the frustration of writer’s block. Maggie comes out for a swim; dancing around the pool side with a towel around herself she reaches under it and pulls off her bathing suit. Jesse ducks inside to watch. She can see him as she drops the towel and dives into the pool. Jesse loves his wife but needs for their relationship to be more passionate. Kate is usually far too busy for romance. Later as Jesse is tending to some plants Maggie comes over to him dressed in a barely there top. She suggests that they rent some pornos and that she could give him oral sex as they watch. The comment is only partially in jest. Inside the house Jesse gets a phone message with yet another rejection for his play. Maggie sits on his lap to comfort him and soon she tires to kiss him. At first he tries to push her off but he can’t seem to prevent being attracted to her. It is only a matter of time and opportunity before they embark on an affair.

Underwood does well in presenting the emotional dilemma of Jesse. He is a proud man who is in a relationship where the roles are reversed. Kate is the bread winner with a successful and lucrative career. He, on the other hand, is still struggle to make a name for himself. Most of his day is spent doing domestic chores around the house. Wagner is simply perfect as the sexually free sister in law. She proves to be more of a temptation than Jesse can resist. Clare does a very good job in her role. She would have been the right choice even if she wasn’t married to the director. This is a slowly paced drama that may have its flaws but is well worth watching. Faraldo does play with the color to make a point. Initially the color palette is muted with black and white used for a few fantasy scenes. When Jesse makes a break through in his script with Maggie the colors brighten dramatically.

The DVD is released by Entertainment Studio through Anchor Bay/Starz. As always Anchor Bay finds little independent flicks and makes your living room into an art house theater.

Posted 04/05/08

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