The short story Cat Person took the internet by storm in 2017, which is kind of a reason I wanted to avoid this movie all together at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It just seemed too “online.” Also, Cat Person, the story, has to rank in the top 30 things where I know the most amount of people’s opinions on one thing that I don’t care that much about one way or another. I decided I could live my life happily without another round. And how could that story become a full movie anyway? Against my better judgment, I watched Cat Person and I found myself … pretty engaged. It’s nuanced, the two leads are great, and it captures the not great vibe of the original story well. I found myself thinking, wow, they pulled this off. And then the events of the short story end yet there are around 40 minutes left in the movie. It’s exactly at this point the movie just becomes something else. And that something else isn’t good. And it’s really infuriating because what came before was really something worth watching.
Emilia Jones (from CODA) plays Margot, a student at a local college who also works at a movie theater. Nicholas Braun (Succession) plays Robert, a frequent customer at the theater who always orders Red Vines, which Margot finds both interesting and odd. Which kind of sums up her whole early relationship with Robert … she finds him pretty much altogether interesting and odd. The two exchange numbers and start a flirty text message campaign. The two start dating. At first, it seems Margot is more into Robert than he is with her. But after things get physical (consensually), Margot’s opinions about Robert change. She’s so turned off by his performance she decides she wants to move on. At first, Robert takes the news with grace, but his texts get more and more agitated and, like in the short story, it finally crescendos on the word “whore.”
That’s pretty much where the short story ends. But how does a movie end like that? Well, this one certainly doesn’t. Up until this point, Robert is kind of a sad sack, but like Margot tells her friend, he’s really never actually done anything bad, but he just has a weird vibe sometimes and she just doesn’t like him anymore. But then after she breaks it off, she admits there are attributes she misses. As a movie, this all seems real and interesting. I really can’t understand how a third act like the one in Cat Person even happens.
A friend of mine texted me, asking me to tell him what happens. I did. He then wrote back, “lol, no but really.” He didn’t believe me. I sounded like I was making it up. I have half a mind to just blurt it all out right now because no one will believe me anyway. But I can’t remember the last time a movie I was actually enjoying quite a bit fell off a cliff like this at such a precise moment. Both Margot and Robert act nothing like they did in the first two-thirds of the movie. The genre switches to almost an action movie? I feel weird saying that, but there’s literally a scene where the two are in a fistfight as they tumble down a flight of stairs then crash into a space heater that sets off a massive blaze. I know what you’re thinking, did Robert break into Margot’s house? No no, the opposite. She broke into his house and got caught. Look, I’ve seen the movie and your guess is as good as mine as to how we got to this plot point.
It’s about that time, as the two tumbled down the stairs, crashing into a space heater and setting off an out-of-control fire that I started thinking about all those nuanced moments from the first two-thirds of the movie. Little actions or things said that could spark such emotions in a viewer. Then it turns into utter nonsense.
Honestly, they’ve almost got something really good here. I’ve never felt this way before about a movie or have ever suggested such a thing, but I’d honestly just consider cutting off everything that happens after the original short story ends and deleting it. Or maybe include it as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray under a section called, “Can you believe we almost went this route?” Replace it with literally anything else. (I understand this costs money.) Honestly, the movie is better if it just ends with Robert’s text tirade like the short story does. That feels real. As is, this is a huge disappointment because it really felt like this movie was doing something interesting.
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