Kristen Roupenian’s viral brief story “Cat Particular person,” revealed in The New Yorker in the course of the top of #MeToo, struck such a cultural nerve that some readers mistakenly referred to it as a nonfiction “article.”
The story of a 20-year-old school pupil briefly courting a bumbling but entitled man in his mid-30s, culminating in a skin-crawlingly awkward intercourse scene, was immediately relatable to ladies who acknowledged the muddy energy dynamics and insidious discomfort inside such a relationship. Nonetheless, nobody was clamoring for the succinct “Cat Particular person” to be remodeled right into a feature-length popcorn thriller — and but right here it’s, directed by the “Booksmart” co-writer Susanna Fogel with a screenplay by Michelle Ashford.
The “Coda” star Emilia Jones portrays Margot, the college-age protagonist who’s working at an area movie show concession stand when she meets Robert (Nicholas Braun, a.okay.a. Cousin Greg from “Succession”). Whereas Braun’s precise model of awkwardness doesn’t fairly match the stumbling, but unearned air of superiority that Robert possessed within the authentic story, he does handle to be imposing whereas additionally trying somewhat misplaced. Jones is completely forged, displaying each naïve curiosity towards Robert and her personal superiority over his social ineptitude. After Robert finally asks for her quantity, the 2 enter right into a nonstop digital dialog, proven by way of textual content bubbles popping throughout the display screen.
For the primary two-thirds, “Cat Particular person” sticks near the plot of the brief story, and efforts to pad out its particulars are a combined bag. Margot’s roommate (Geraldine Viswanathan) will get a bigger function as her loyal pal and a campus activist (she moderates a feminist subreddit), continuously reminding Margot — and us — of the hazard of getting too concerned with an odd man. Much less profitable are the overt thriller and horror components that Fogel inserts into the plot, trendy as they could be. Isabella Rossellini performs a weird function as Margot’s anthropology professor, delivering a heavy-handed metaphor involving queen ants and ineffective male drones. As Margot grows nearer to Robert, she has visions of him violently attacking her on a date, turning the ambiguous menace current in Roupenian’s writing right into a one-note case of: Is he a serial killer or not?
“Cat Particular person” is at its strongest when it expands upon what made Roupenian’s work so resonant: Margot’s confused and, at occasions, brutally trustworthy internal monologue. Her vivid creativeness is what permits her to undertaking hidden depth onto the unremarkable Robert, first by way of their textual content exchanges, after which by way of conversations she envisions him having along with his therapist about her. (As within the story, it’s what Margot believes Robert might even see in her that pulls her as a lot as, or maybe greater than, the person himself.)
In the course of the intercourse scene — as uncomfortable and jarring as within the New Yorker piece — Margot speaks to a clone of herself standing throughout the room, weighing out the professionals and cons of stopping Robert or getting it over with, all whereas enduring his clumsy makes an attempt to behave out the final porno he noticed. It’s the very best writing within the movie, demonstrating how nuance may very well be added to the supply materials for the massive display screen.
Sadly, the identical couldn’t be stated for its closing act. Whereas Roupenian’s brief story led to a harrowing collection of texts from Robert, calling into query his true intentions however by no means confirming them, “Cat Particular person” the movie trades that ambiguity for a violent dwelling nightmare. The unfastened ends that made the unique work compelling are inexplicably tied up, changed by a misguided portrayal of Margot as an unreliable narrator, compelled to face the results of her personal fears. It’s true that courting in a misogynistic world is a scary prospect, and Fogel and Ashford definitely acknowledge all of the refined ways in which concern can creep in by way of uncertainty. If solely they trusted their viewers to do the identical.
Cat Particular person
Not rated. Operating time: 1 hour 58 minutes. In theaters.