Cat Person (2023)

Director: Susanna Fogel

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Emilia Jones, Nicholas Braun, Geraldine Viswanathan, Hope Davis, Liza Koshy, Fred Melamed, Isabella Rossellini

Based on Kristen Roupenian's 2017 short story, writer Michelle Ashford and director Susanna Fogel bring alive this tale about the troubles of modern dating. During her shift at the movie theatre, college sophomore Margot (Emilia Jones) flirts with an older man named Robert (Nicholas Braun) and later gives him her number. She is smitten as they flirt over texts, sharing stories about Margot's family and Robert's cats, although meeting in real life disappoints her.

As they spend time together in-person, Margot realizes that she does not actually know Robert and is not even sure if he actually has cats. Her worries are visualised through worst-case scenarios which blur Margot's imagination with real-life interactions, conveying dating horrors in ways that are unfortunately dulled by tiresome repetition over-explaining the lead's anxieties.

The first two acts offer interesting explorations about the modern dating landscape, stemming from a Margaret Atwood quote about men fearing women will laugh at them while women fear men will murder them. As the quote opens the film, it captures how Margot feels it is easier to disregard her feelings of uncomfortableness for others' sake and remain constantly polite out of a fear of retribution. This insight pointedly appears during a disappointing date where Margot has an out of body experience, leaving her feelings for Robert to vanish.

Central to the story are terrific lead performances, with Jones capturing Margot's clear discomfort as she feels less at-ease with Robert as his real-life persona disappoints compared to the text interactions she found charming. Braun effectively brings alive Robert, who disregards his dates feelings to treat his date as merely an outlet for his romantic idealisations. It is telling that he claims to have learned everything about romance from Harrison Ford, particularly when Robert lovingly shares a montage of Ford's on-screen personas forcing themselves onto female characters.

If the third-act feels out of place and taken from somewhere entirely different, that is because it is. The short story's ending occurs during the second-act, leaving the last portion to disregard an understated ending for a sub-standard thriller that spells out what the film was previously saying. There is a question to be had about whether a 59-page short story needs to have an almost 2-hour feature adaptation, as it is unfortunate how a third-act can transform an interesting look at modern dating into an overblown mess which spectacularly misses the point.

Cat Person is available in cinemas now