‘Cat Person’ Sundance premiere has the festival buzzing

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This article is a spoiler for the movie “Cat People”.

Park City, Utah — if available A movie designed to blow up group text threads is “Cat People.”

“‘Cat People’ is everything I want to talk about,” a young female filmmaker wrote in a large Sundance group chat I attended after Saturday night’s premiere, accompanied by a tear Flowing emoji. “I have very strong opinions haha,” replied another.

It seems like everyone at Sundance had a lot to say about this highly anticipated adaptation of The New Yorker’s viral short story by Emilia Jones (“The Epilogue”) Starring Nicholas Braun (“Successor”‘s cousin Greg), it follows a 20-year-old young woman, Margot, who builds a largely text-based A relationship with an older man, Robert, and then a really bad date with him.

Kristen Roupenian’s story hit 1,000 when it was published in December 2017 about consent and bad kissers (and ghosting, and can change the way you think about having sex with someone Could it be) Twitter thread when society began to grapple with the fallout from #MeToo. (This story comes two months after initial reports in The New York Times and The New Yorker about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual abuse.) Listening to audience chatter as I left the premiere Saturday was like listening to arrive those twitter threads Resurrection after five years. Nightmarish dating stories are clearly resonating as always.

In a far cry from Roupenian’s nuanced short story, however, the film version of “Cat People” is unmistakably a darkly comedic horror about the hellish landscape of modern dating.Director Suzanne Fogel (who co-wrote the screenplay for 2019’s “Booksmart”) and screenwriter Michelle Ashford (creator of “Masters of Sex”) have leaned into genre elements, often jumping Between reality and Margot’s violent fantasies that she is constantly in danger simply because she is a woman. Every night home alone, every touch of an arm can hurt, and Heather Mackintosh’s soundtrack adds to the dread.

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The film also adds Isabella Rossellini as Margot’s professor, scathing commentary on the gender dynamics of ants and bees, and a skeptical feminist best friend (from “Barrier”). “Geraldine Viswanata” keeps pointing out how this relationship can seem like bad news, only to have Margot ignore all her warnings.

“Michelle and I talked a lot about trying to represent those internalized fears with an externalized sense of danger, even though I was just that adrenaline feeling, that cortical feeling,” Fogel said in a post-screening Q&A. Alcohol flashes the dangers of thinking that many women suddenly realize the size of someone they don’t know, whom they met on Tinder the day before, and who are now doing 80 miles an hour on the highway drive.”

The movie’s biggest fans seem to be people who have invested blindly and not been thrown off by the film’s extreme, worst-case scenarios The third act, which follows the Roupenian story’s hit-and-miss finale, when Robert lashes out at Margot via text message after she’s ghosted. It’s not subtle, but it’s a fascinating adaptation of seemingly unfilmable source material that takes place mostly in the text and in Margot’s head.

The audience reacted to the third act with a writhing, nervous laugh, and cupped hands over their eyes – but it also gave Robert a chance to say what was going on in his head and grill Margot about what he could have done wrong The thing. The man sitting next to me said he appreciated that because he’d been through the same emotions and would jump to conclusions after a woman he dated left inexplicably.

As with the story, the heart of the film is that Robert is a genuinely bad kisser, something Margot ignores when she has sex with him on a first date, even as she grows to loathe him. “Trying to figure out how to kiss badly and extremely badly was a lot of fun for two actors,” Braun said in a brief interview. “‘Is that weird enough? No? Let’s get weirder.'”

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As for the sex scenes, director Fogel decided to put another out-of-body Margot in the room for a comic commentary at the end of the show. Despite the dark material, there were plenty of laughs, even halfway through filming, Jones said.

Fogel said that while the film is Margot’s story, she felt Robert’s casting had to be as specific as possible. He needed to be attractive, a little out of place, and big, so Margot felt uncomfortable. “Nick is an amazing creature because he’s a nerd on TV, but at the same time, he’s a heartthrob in this world,” Fogel said. “He’s a perfect fit because you have to trust that she’s going to be interested in him and be able to project onto him. Nick has a chameleon-like quality where, in certain situations, you look at him and say, ‘Oh, that’s He’s a leading man,’ but sometimes he’s insecure or says the wrong thing, and you can recoil from that attraction.”

Braun also felt he had something to do with the awkwardness of the role. “Everyone is Robert in some way,” he said. “You try really hard, or do anything masculine to make you more attractive, or dress a certain way to impress women. I guess I’m embarrassed, uncomfortable, and overly lustful too, just Like ‘Oh my god, I want this so badly,’ and then you kind of ruin something because it’s so lopsided.”

Regardless of what anyone may think of the film and its success as an adaptation (it’s not yet out for sale), it did seem to strike a nerve with audiences who had been talking about the gray areas of dating and the chaos at a house party in Park City that night. meet by chance. During the question-and-answer session, Fogel said the film was an inevitable evolution of the female revenge thrillers that flourished in the late 2010s after the male reckoning.

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“We wanted to explore ambivalence and the idea that consent is an ongoing thing, that people change their minds, and there has to be room in the culture to talk about that,” Fogel said. “Sometimes you might wish you weren’t somewhere, And when you’ve done all the things that brought you to that place. Then what? Should the other person know? There’s a pressure to be absolutely sure of what you want and be able to articulate it, otherwise you lose the ability to run away from it. “

Reviews have been mixed. Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times criticized its “slashing storytelling” that devolved into “bloody, fiery, and exceedingly violent mayhem,” while Variety praised its “adventurous” and “bold” No. Three acts. Indiewire called it “just the right amount of torture” in a flattering way, saying “it’ll make you gnash your teeth and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, just like it should.”

Rupernian said it was the second time she saw the movie and she still had a stomachache after watching it. “It got me thinking that experiences that feel internal and intangible actually aren’t,” she says. “They’re literally in her face every moment, but it’s still hard to talk about. … Everyone’s experience is different, and it’s shocking, surprising and terrifying.”



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