Starring Emilia Jones, Nicholas Braun, Geraldine Viswanathan, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini, Fred Melamed, Isaac Powell, and Liza Koshy, directed by Susanna Fogel, and written by Michelle Ashford (screenplay by) and Kristen Roupenian (based on short story by).
The only things I knew going into this movie were that filming took place in New Jersey and it is based on a fictional short story that was published in The New Yorker.
I love Coda, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. I am also a huge fan of Succession, which is on its fourth and hopefully not last season.
From the start of the film, I was drawn in. I leaned toward the television, watching the characters, and seeing parts of myself in them. Margot (Emilia Jones) creates this narrative in her head of what she wants in a relationship with Robert (Nicholas Braun). This fictional narrative is far different from what is happening in reality, but Margot has a hard time of telling the difference between the two.
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Robert also has trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. While both characters are deeply flawed, both of them have support for the conclusions they have drawn on each other. Do not get me wrong, I still wanted to scream at Robert when he described encounters with Margot that did not happen the way he insists they did. He somehow missed crystal clear context clues (he would make a terrible detective).
My peak anger moment was when he tried to place all of the blame on Margot for all of their huge misunderstandings. Both of them are to blame for their terrible communication skills. However, Robert, like Margot, saw what he chose to see in their relationship. Being influenced by previous life experiences, the current cultural climate, and, of course, the movies they enjoy, make them have starkly different ideals of love.
Through and through
I took a butt load of notes throughout this film. I related, felt enraged, and cheered, as I watched alone in my cold room. I cringed at all the “sweethearts” and metaphorically dropped my cookie when Margot opened the door and saw that Robert does indeed have 2 cats.
Watching as the power dynamics shifted was interesting. I have not seen a movie that felt so much like a slinky. I liked exploring the overlap, as well as the distance, between a person’s thoughts, what physically happens in real life, and what another person interprets of the same situation.
I did spot a review where the critic not-so-subtly complains about how not subtle this movie is, however, I disagree. In my notes, I repeatedly wrote that this film feels like a conversation. It presents situations and lures emotions out of you, while not telling you what emotions to feel. It makes you want to feel something, but does not tell you if you are right or wrong. It leads you to your reaction, but that reaction is yours and not manufactured and spit in your mouth (I am allowing this gross metaphor since there are animal metaphors in this film).
Set the scene
Two girls in a dorm room watch texts roll in from a lonely 30-something-year-old as typos increase and rage builds. The evolution of the relationships along with the plot are suspenseful and fulfilling. Some guys vent about how women are crazy for letting their minds spiral down a fictitious path, but this movie shows that men do it, too.
And then what?
Words that crossed my mind while watching this film: disconnection, danger, consuming, encouraging, and explorative.
Cat Person does not just explore the female’s perspective, it shows Robert’s genuine thought process. It is more enriching to get a view of both sides and not feel clear on who is the bad or good guy. In the end, I did choose sides. I never thought I would want to punch Greg, but now I do.
I loved the music, especially the brilliant use of a certain Britney tune to explore female discomfort and how one pushes through it.
Acting and Characters
Robert’s house is weird, but cute, but confusing and creepy. He reminds me of a human version of a gummy worm. A soft-man-child-person-banana. Banana because he is squishy in motive, never quite sure where he stands or who he is. Or, at least it feels that way.
There is this one brilliant movement Nicholas Braun makes when Robert tells Margot, “Everybody believes the woman” and she responds with, “Trust me, they don’t.” He kind of shivers in contempt and simultaneously pouts like a child. Needless to say, this moment really stoked the hate I had for Robert.
He also had me riled when he said, “You dumbass teenager, you just fucking manipulated me.” Not realizing he is calling himself stupid for allowing himself to get manipulated by said “dumbass teenager.” He needs to take some accountability, man.
The incredible acting is what made this movie so powerful. Emilia shows so much emotion with every movement and facial expression. In addition, Robert’s anger is tangible. Sometimes when an actor is known for likable roles, I am not convinced of their evilness, but Nicholas had me fuming.
My Favorite Quotes
“Say: I have changed my mind.”
“I have to say more.” “No, you don’t.”
“This is just him pissing on a lamp post, ignore it.”
“No, you’re only with me when I agree with you.”
“You’re too busy stuck in a YA fantasy novel… Don’t you realize I ground you?!”
My Rating: 8/10
Overall, I really enjoyed this film and the dialogue I am sure it will create. The scenes are vibrant in good and bad ways, but always intriguing which made me lean in. At first, Robert and Margot are nice on the surface, but then they respectfully become the person their partner was afraid they were in the first place. If only they could have been honest with one another and talked it through with no pepper spray or Harrison Ford present.
It’s genre bending and I appreciate the writer and director for pointing out some of the nonsense present in the Indiana Jones movies. I never liked those films because of how woman are portrayed.
The Q & A
In the Question and Answer Session following the film, the team behind Cat Person brought up some interesting points, here are some of them:
“Everyone can see themselves in this story.”
“I liked playing the moments between the moments.”
“We wanted to talk about it in a nuanced way that allows for all shades of gray.”
“Those experiences that feel internal aren’t. They’re all on her face and visible.”
When Margot eyes a guy at the movie theatre, their shared interest in one another turns into a puzzling maze where both sides feel like they are the pawn.
Where can you watch it?
The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival. I do not know where it will be available for viewing in the future.
As of right now, the film is still available for online viewing, tickets cost around $21.
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