“Make peace with a little discomfort.”Dr Enid Zabala
Cat Person occupies the same space of ambiguity in relationships as The Accusation but its tonal approach is more akin to Promising Young Woman, particularly in its use of genre expectations as a tool. Susanna Fogel avoids resorting to inner monologue by externalising Margot’s psychology through her fantasies — often using horror tropes — and this is particularly effective in demonstrating how women’s legitimate fears can be amplified disproportionately by the media they consume (“People choose to be scared,” opines her professor). As Margot’s relationship with Robert develops unsteadily, the audience and characters alike are trying to piece together what genre we are in. Both Emilia Jones and Nicholas Braun deftly play with this confusion: the age and height difference can make Robert threatening, yet he can seem clumsy and inexperienced compared to Margot. Films frequently use overlaid text messages but rarely do they capture the cadence of these conversations so well, including asynchronous engagement and the insecurity it elicits. Whilst Cat Person very much presents Margot’s subjective perspective of their interactions, it is provocative rather than preachy. Margot’s roommate might typically be the voice of reason but here highlights the toxicity of ostracising men and imposing rules on other women’s dating. The New Yorker short story that spawned the film was not the same viral sensation on this side of the Atlantic, and Cat Person may fare better without the comparison. There is enough universal familiarity in the awkward dating experience to make any viewer cringe, but that same universality is lost in the escalation of the last act which perhaps indicates an overextension of a taut short story. Until then, the ambiguity is deployed effectively, inducing anxiety and discomfort in the viewer — precisely the reaction Cat Person wishes to evoke.