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'Cat People' Review: Emilia Jones and Nicholas Braun on Tightrope Walking Adaptation of Viral New Yorker Short Story

Like most viral internet obsessions hailed as evidence of the zeitgeist, Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat People” is more of a cultural touchstone than anything else.

Short story, published in The New Yorker in the winter of , to an almost vertiginous amount of fanfare and controversy. On the one hand: applause for the Roupenian’s blunt portrayal of 30 dating of the century, which mirrors the confessional verve of New York Magazine “Sex Diary” column. On the flip side: Rolling eyes at the hype machine, criticism of the author’s style, complaints from offended parties.


Bottom line Sure to spark discussion.

The story of a macabre romance between a college sophomore and a man more than a decade older than her is blurred in the cacophony of discourse. The conversation — about the merits of the story, why it elicited such a strong response, about what it said about communication — spiraled, and the plot disappeared. I suspect the same fate will befall Suzanne Fogel’s tightrope adaptation, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and will no doubt find a loyal, loyal audience.

Cat Person — Directed by Fogel (co-author of Booksmart) and written by : Michelle Ashford (Sex Guru ) — Knows its reputation and capitalizes on that ego. Fogel and Ashford tease out the story’s underlying horror. Dating nightmares, fears of intimacy and anxieties about trusting a potential suitor become visions of strange voices, shadowy figures and inevitable situations. The film approaches tense destruction in a liberating way. Like a helicopter parent with access to Find My Friends, the Cat Person can’t help but keep checking in.

This distrust of audiences is “obvious at first. Cat Person opens by embracing its source material and flaunting its genre aspirations. Ma Gert (Emilia Jones) meets Robert (Nicholas Braun) at the town movie theater, where she tends the concession stand. Their initial interaction echoes the shy coldness of the short story: Margot teases Robert about buying Red Vine, he joked about her terrible job.

The movie unfolds on its own when Margot stumbles across a stray dog ​​in front of her dorm building. She tries to The dog is sneaked into her room. But the floor is sternly watched by a condescending resident advisor who, upon hearing Margot shuffling in the hall, reminds our protagonist that animals are not allowed. That night, Margot dreams of the dog howling outside her window and beating her RA. This scene sets the tone and establishes the film’s playful play of truth and reality. The intention of the line between unreal. Adopting the techniques of recent social horror movies – such as Get Out and Promising Young Woman Cat People Turning the horror of social issues into atmospheric fear.

Margot and Robert exchanged numbers at work the next night and began their romance. They text each day; some messages are more cringe-worthy than others. Margot’s friend Tamara (the always exciting Geraldine Viswanathan) is an outspoken feminist who moderates an internet forum , encouraging her to set boundaries early and often. Margot wouldn’t listen. The more she talked to Robert, the more divided she became of him: a man who was both a charismatic individual and a would-be murderer

Scenes like Robert delivering some food to Margot, who works late at the campus lab, confirm this feeling. The adolescence of their relationship — mostly limited to texting — — making every interaction fraught with the danger of fatal missteps. Small gestures like Robert handing her a treat or reaching for her arm triggers Margot’s anxiety as she imagines him rushing or attacking her. DP Manuel Billeter, driven by composer Heather McIntosh, has created a visual language that moves effortlessly between calm and terror. Jones (CODA) and Braun (Succession) enhances the believability of these moments; their performance elicits just the right amount of second-hand awkwardness.

Surrounding these emphasize cishet dating failures and Anxiously tense interactions are check-in episodes that want to make sure we’re picking up on what Fogel, Ashford, and Roupenian put down. Margot’s anthropology professor (a scene-stealing Isabella Rossellini) monologues about ants or a fantasy therapy session with an unnamed analyst (Fred Melamed) convey the stakes aloud and package themes too subtly. At best, these are amusing cameos; at worst, they’re evidence that the filmmakers don’t fully trust the audience.

Roupenian’s stories are funniest when they are restrained and comforting in their ambiguity. The violence of socialized gender roles contributes to gray areas and exclusion. After Margot ends the story’s love affair, Robert’s initial sadness turns into obnoxious anger. He texted her again, each message more aggressive than the last, until the story ended with him calling Margot a whore.

The Catman effectively recreates that scene and the scene that led to it, but it doesn’t end there. The creepy third act adds an unusual epilogue – which I’ve only seen once and am still processing. The relief, however, is how the filmmakers handle these tense scenes: Fogel and Ashford loosen their grip, ultimately trusting us to rest easy, draw our own conclusions and grind tools of our discourse.

Full credits

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premiere) Production Company: 30 West, Echelon Productions, Imperative Entertainment, Studio Canal, The New Yorker Cast: Emilia Jones, Nicholas Braun, Geraldine Viswanathan , Hope Davis, Fred Melamed, Isabella Rossellini Director: Suzanne Fogel Writers: Michelle Ashford, Kristen Roupenian (based on a short story) Producers: Helen Estabrook, Jeremy Steckler Executive Producers: Daniel Hank, Susanna Fogel, Gino Falsetto, Michelle Ashford, Anna Marsh, Shana Eddy-Grouf, Rachel Henochsberg, Elizabeth Banks, Max Handelman Photographer: Manuel Billet Production Design: Sally Levi Costume Design: Ava Yuriko HamaEditor: Jacob CraycroftComposer: Heather McIntosh
Casting Director: Deanna Brigidi Sold by: StudioCanal 2 hours

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