02nd Nov2023

‘Cat Person’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Emilia Jones, Nicholas Braun, Geraldine Viswanathan, Hope Davis, Fred Melamed, Isabella Rossellini, Christopher Shyer, Liza Koshy, Camille Umoff | Written by Michelle Ashford, Kristen Roupenian | Directed by Susanna Fogel

Emilia Jones (CODA) and Nicholas Braun (Succession) co-star in Cat Person, a sharply written thriller that explores the minefield of dating in the modern era. Based on the New Yorker short story by Kristen Roupenian, it’s by turns chilling, suspenseful and provocative.

Directed by Susanna Fogel, Cat Person centres on 20-year-old Margot (Jones) a second-year student who also holds down a concession stand job at her local cinema. That’s where she meets Robert (Braun), a tall, bearded older man who takes her number after a bit of cross-counter flirtation.

Soon Margot and Robert are texting each other all the time, much to the consternation of her protective best friend Taylor (Geraldine Viswanathan), who’s on high alert for red flags, insisting that she doesn’t really know him. Eventually, Margot and Robert go on an actual date, but things don’t exactly go according to plan, and Margot starts to realise that she might be in actual danger.

The script – adapted from Roupenian’s story by Michelle Ashford – does a terrific job of conveying both the highs and the lows of modern-day dating, particularly in the visual depiction of their early text conversations and the excitement of getting a new message, followed by the crushing sense of disappointment when your latest text receives no answer. It also underscores its central message, that it’s easy to get sucked into a connection based on mutually enjoyable communication, but that doesn’t necessarily tell you the whole story about a person.

Furthermore, Cat Person is filled with interesting, complex and provocative ideas, most notably in the clearly illustrated fact that two people can have completely separate experiences of the same event. To that end, the film’s key sequence is an excruciating sex scene that is simultaneously horrifying, heart-breaking, thoroughly depressing and extremely uncomfortable to watch, while still managing to hit notes of dark humour.

In the wake of the sex scene, once Margot decides she doesn’t want to be with Robert anymore, the film becomes a more conventional stalker-style thriller-slash-horror, with a significant increase in tension, as both Margot and the audience realise we don’t really know what Robert is capable of. However, even though there is undeniably creepy behaviour, the script still manages to retain an interesting degree of ambiguity and derives further suspense from the suggestion that real horror could result from Robert’s own paranoia and fear.

Jones and Braun are both superb in the lead roles, pitching their performances just right, so that it’s clear that both are capable of making poor decisions. There’s also strong support from Isabella Rossellini (as Margot’s tutor) and Hope Davis (as Margot’s mum), while Viswanathan is reliably good value as Taylor (though let’s hope she still gets to play leads going forward and doesn’t get stuck as wisecracking best friend for the foreseeable future).

In short, Cat Person is an engaging and superbly directed thriller that expertly combines chilling suspense, dark humour and provocative ideas. At the very least, it’ll make you think twice about your next dating interactions.

**** 4/5

Cat Person is in cinemas now.


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