Cat Person – movie review

A quirky, psychological drama, Cat Person takes its time to ignite but comes into its own in the third act.

Margot (Emilia Jones) is a diligent, 20-year-old university student, specialising in anthropology, who has a vivid imagination. She works part-time at the candy bar in an old-style movie theatre. Into the cinema walks tall, dark, awkward stranger Robert (Nicholas Braun), a 33-year-old who is not good at small talk. Margot’s ultra-feminist roommate Taylor (Geraldine Viswanathan) can’t understand why the attraction is there and tries to warn her off. But there remains something about Robert that interests Margot.

When he turns up at the movies a second time, Margot seizes her opportunity, while fantasising about what could be (even though she has to fill the inevitable silences between them). A relationship, of sorts, develops, starting with text messages, but there is still an uncomfortable, unnatural feel to it. As things get physical, Margot struggles to get over her feelings of ick. Discomfort turns to fear for Margot, as she doesn’t know how to break things off and believes he is stalking her.

Susanna Fogel directs a screenplay adapted by Michelle Ashford from a 2017 New Yorker short story by Kristen Roupenian. While I appreciated the eccentric characterisations, the pacing of much of the film can best be described as languid. I would have liked it to move along more rapidly. Among the best scenes in the film are Margot’s nightmares and thought bubbles.

Emilia Jones has an “X” factor that is particularly appealing. She brings emotional intelligence to the role. Geraldine Viswanathan is a scene stealer with her forthright, take no prisoners attitude. Nicholas Braun has arguably the hardest persona to fill because you could hardly call Robert likeable. He is often distant – a fish out of water. 

I was left wondering what qualities Margot saw in Robert that she actually appreciated. It appeared that she merely loved the thought of having someone special. Margot and Taylor’s musical theatre-obsessed buddies add a bit of fun (some may read that to mean cringe value). Also, don’t be fooled by the title. A dog has more screen time in Cat Person that a feline.

The film has some delightful moments and shows promise, but doesn’t realise its full potential.

Alex First

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