It will not surprise no one that the centerpiece of cat person — an adaptation of the virus New Yorker short story by Kristen Roupenianthe literary fuse that set in motion a million reply articles and the hot ticket on the surface of the sun in Sundance – is a sex scene. It’s just as inevitable that it will be a “bad sex” scene, whether or not it’s a bad sex scene. The only question is the level of horror you’ll witness when the two people at the center of this swirling vortex hook up, and whether it will make their on-page counterpart seem comparatively tame. (The other, more pressing question is: How the hell do you adjust cat person in a movie at all? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)
At this point, we have followed the evolution of the relationship between Margot (coda‘s Emilia Jones), a 20-year-old college sophomore, and Robert (Succession‘s Nicholas Braun), a 33-year-old man. We have seen them meet at his work, at a food stand at the local auteur theater. You know, the kind that has a lot of revival programming and trailers about old monster movies featuring “a young woman, in danger!” The awkward flirtation has led to daily text message exchanges and inside jokes, as well as a late-night mission to provide Margot with sustenance in the form of Fruity Pebbles, the kind of gesture that falls somewhere between suspicious and sweet. They finally go on a proper date, which involves seeing The Empire Strikes Back — one of his all-time favorites; no matter what she finds Star Wars boring movies, in the same theater where he works. After several beers and an extremely horrible first kiss, they are back at Robert’s.
He pours Margot some whiskey, but doesn’t give her a chance to drink it. When they get to her bedroom, she puts on “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode. (“Can’t you understand? / Oh, my girl.”) Robert alternates between aggressively undressing Margot and groping his clothes off. In the story, she imagines remembering this worst date moment with a boyfriend-to-be and they laugh about it; this time around, thanks to one of the more brilliant additions brought by writer Michelle Ashford and director Susanna Fogel, Margot is having a constant conversation with herself as it happens. Abort mission, says Margot coldly leaning against the wall. I can’t, it’s too late, answers the Margot trapped between the man who grinds on top of her. She might hurt her feelings. Well, let’s get this over with, they both reluctantly agree.
What follows is a scene of such intense discomfort and nuclear-grade embarrassment that you may want to avoid attempting intercourse ever again. Playing in real time, it’s a symphony of sexual gaffe, male oblivion, conflicting statements, and views on consent (apparently, “let’s take it easy” translates to manually stimulating yourself with another person’s hand without asking for permission). ) and recreations of barked pornographic scenarios. . It ends with Margot having an out-of-body experience, watching herself while Robert, in oil derrick mode, treats her like an accessory. When she’s done, he whispers “Good girl.” It is the opposite of physical intimacy. More like pure bad-sex nightmare fodder.
This screen version of cat personThe page’s second most toxic moment feels designed to nauseate, as well as provoke at least a small ember of reflection from viewers: some Does this look familiar? Has any iteration of this happened to you? The idea is that many female viewers, and probably a handful of self-aware male viewers, will recoil in recognition. And as in the Roupenian story, this encounter will lead Robert to send sensitive dolphin emojis, to Margot’s best friend Tamara (Geraldine Viswanathan) to write a kiss directly on her friend’s phone, and to that series of messages. text messages that gradually descend into misogyny, dude. jokester and a one-word dismissal that says a lot about Freud: “Whore.”
Fogel stages this in the now-of rigor way of making the texts appear on the screen as they appear, each incoming ding doubles as a warning horn. It doesn’t make the growing sense of dread any less potent. The camera pans slowly to the two young women as Robert’s spiral missives pile up, one after the other. Tamar’s reactions grow more OMG. Margot’s face remains a mask of emotional numbness.
This is where the New Yorker version ends, and like many great short stories—“A Tree, a Rock, a Cloud,” “The Wrestler,” “The Lottery”—it is the compactness and connecting-the-dots aspects that give Roupenian cat person such depth charge power. That final series of blows appears just past the midpoint in cat person the film, however, tackles the bigger problem besetting this entire effort: how to flesh this out into a three-act narrative that works like a two-hour feature film. Like Fogel and Ashford told the hollywood reporter a few days before their glitzy Sundance premiere on Saturday night, they decided to turn this into a Salt-style, social commentary horror movie. is the type of Eureka! choice that feels wise until you see the end result, at which point you may find yourself thinking: Um, really?
Is not that cat person It Can’t Be a Horror Story: It opens with Margaret Atwood’s quote about men fearing humiliation and women fearing being killed by men, and the film taps into the inherent fear someone would feel in a potentially dangerous situation. Like, say, dealing with an unstable friend. (Braun’s height and Cousin-Greg’s discomfort in his own skin are on point here.) The addition of scary music over innocuous scenes of an already feeling bad date fits the bill. The same goes for something as simple as Jones walking down a dark street late at night; any number of women will tell you that he is a real-life source of anxiety worthy of a John Carpenter score.
But once the movie commits to that notion, cat person it begins to bump into the conventions and limitations of its genre in the worst possible way. There’s already been plenty of filler to make this a standout run: Isabella Rosselini lecturing about queen ants, Hope Davis turning Margot’s mom into a needy narcissist, some extra business on campus politics, and a Sondheim production. In the woods (in which Prince Charming is troublesome), imagined therapy sessions, Viswanathan’s character getting into a fight with someone on his Reddit known as “The Vagenda”. Not to mention the incidents that are mentioned in passing in the story that is dramatized in full sequences.
However, by also trying to mold this material into a pre-made horror template, cat person‘s cup truly overflows. Which is why we get a climactic scene involving a fight, a fire, and Margot going from “car stall girl” (the demeaning nickname Robert gave her) to the final girl who couldn’t feel more forced. Worse still, it seems to rest on the notion that much of the last act hoopla and feelings of compromised security are actually his fault: a move that seems WTF at best. These elements should add context to the culture that has produced these problems. Instead, it boils everything down to weak satirical tea and scary movie beats. toxic masculinity it may be the beast within modern men, but the attempt to shape it into cinematic terms fails painfully.
What the film accuses well, without a doubt, are the films themselves. Robert’s favorite actor is Harrison Ford, and he delivers the dialogue from the Empire scene where Han Solo teases Leia before kissing her roughly. When she sends Margot a post-coital montage of Ford’s greatest hits the next day, Tamara discusses how scenes from Indiana Jones movies and Bounty hunter sell the idea that women are not courted but conquered by sheer will. The sounds of a 1950s trailer playing in Margot’s theater, about evil unleashed upon damsels in distress, is no coincidence. Nor, we suppose, is the fragment of american graffiti We see that it normalizes that a 12-year-old boy hangs out with an older boy. Don’t get us started on the song and dance routine that Margot performs with her mom, for her stepdad: Marilyn Monroe’s carnal lullaby “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” [shudder] 1960’s Let’s make love. You can not say that cat person he’s shy about criticizing the medium for selling a romantic ideal that’s more than a little set. If only he was as rigorous and incisive about the source material itself.
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