Film Review: Cat Person | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, May 19th, 2024  

Cat Person

Studio: StudioCanal
Director: Susanna Fogel

Oct 26, 2023 Web Exclusive
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Following the unanimous acclaim given to HBO’s Succession, there has been a considerable amount of interest in actor Nicholas Braun, whose performance as the cowardly Greg Hirsch was one of the show’s highlights. It is, therefore, interesting to discover that he’s been acting on TV since 2001 and in films since 2005’s Sky High. Braun has accrued quite an impressive portfolio of supporting roles in relatively major independent films like Red State (2011) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), so it must be gratifying for him to finally be getting cast in leading-man roles, particularly ones as interesting as that of Robert in Cat Person. The film is a provocative romantic thriller helmed by Susanna Fogel, who previously co-wrote and directed the underrated The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018).

Cat Person takes as its basis a New Yorker short story of the same name that went viral in 2017. The film tells the story of Margot (Emilia Jones), a 20-year-old myrmecology student who works part-time at a repertory cinema near her university campus. One evening, Robert (Braun), a 33-year-old lone male who she accurately describes in a text message to her friend Taylor (Geraldine Viswanathan) as resembling “the best friend in an Apatow film,” enters to buy a ticket and some candy. She gently mocks him for his unusual pairing of popcorn with Red Vines as a snack to consume whilst watching the film, and he feels slightly (but noticeably) chagrined at this. He returns to see another film some days later, and they get on slightly better this time. After a while, the pair exchange numbers, frequently text with each other, and go on a date. However, this date does not go as well as Margot was expecting.

Whilst this description of its events probably makes Cat Person sound like a relatively straightforward rom-com, Fogel injects just as many curveballs and subversions of genre convention into it as she did her previous film, if not more. She handles the film’s central sex scene sensitively, and the scenario portrayed leaves the viewer with just enough (but not too much) of a uncomfortable feeling. Jones and Braun both give great performances, although following his work on Succession, the latter could be said to have been cast to type as a passive-aggressive beta male.

The script features several provocative interjections into ongoing societal discourses concerning women’s safety, male feminism, age-gap relationships, millennial-Gen Z culture clashes, and sexual power imbalances. Credit is due to screenwriter Michelle Ashford, whose dialogue is plausible and witty. Cinematographer Manuel Billeter does a great job of lighting the nocturnal scenes, helping to imbue them with an unpredictable atmosphere. His work is especially impressive given that this is his theatrical debut. Hope Davis and Christopher Shyer are both very funny as Margot’s mother and stepfather, and, following a hiatus from prominent movies, it’s great to see Isabella Rossellini as her professor.

Cat Person is an entertaining, thought-provoking, well-made film that should raise Jones’ and Braun’s film acting profiles.

Author rating: 7.5/10

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