Sundance 2023: Cat Person

Directed by: Susanna Fogel 
Distributed by: TBA

Written by Maria Athayde 


Based on the short story “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian,  Fogel’s film tells the story of 20-year-old college student and theater clerk Margot (Emilia Jones) and 33-year-old Robert (Nicholas Braun). What starts off as a seemingly innocuous flirtation at the theater’s concession stand morphs into something more unsettling as the movie progresses. A quote by Margaret Atwood that reads “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them” appears early on in the film and seems to punctuate much of its narrative.  

Stuck in between a treatise on modern dating, texting culture, and power dynamics, “Cat Person” is a movie I am still trying to place my finger on. Even though it is anchored by strong performances from Jones and Braun with a two-hour runtime it becomes borderline exhausting as the story progresses. The story is simple: Margot and Robert start texting, go on a date, have a bad first kiss, have even worse sex, and the movie devolves from there. Throughout the film, Margot keeps having visions that she is murdered or kidnapped on her date. She starts to notice things about Robert that are not so attractive. Her subconscious talks to her and tells her to break things off with Robert. So when her roommate Taylor (Geraldine Viswanathan who was completely underutilized in the role) breaks it off via text for her Robert does not take it that well and things devolve (sort of) from there. 

Perhaps its biggest downfall is the weak screenplay that reduces characters, especially the supporting ones to one-dimensional beings. Nothing feels fleshed out enough to bring meaning to what you see on screen. None of these characters feel lived-in. This film is the epitome of what you see is what you get, nothing is left up to interpretation. “Cat Person” would fit seamlessly in a triple feature with “Promising Young Woman ” and “Fresh” and the latter two happen to be more enjoyable if you are looking for this type of commentary. Whatever commentary this movie was trying to make on modern dating misses the mark with an ending so awful that it is bound to divide audiences. Unlike Janicza Bravo’s brilliant “Zola” the more I think about this the more I am certain that not every story that blows up on Twitter needs to be adapted into a movie.

“Theater Camp” was screened as part of the 2023 edition of the Sundance Film Festival.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdSerializd, Twitter, and view more of what she’s up to here.

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