A story like the one told in Kristen Roupenian’s viral ‘Cat Person’ New Yorker short story, no longer feels remarkable. Her clear account of a college student’s unhappy relationship with a much older man is one that people — women, really — now talk about all the time. I went out with a weirdo who got too strong! I walked out with a terrible kiss! I dated a guy who went wild when I tried to end things!
But in 2017, “Cat Person” felt like a weight lifted from women’s shoulders. Finally, someone had put words to the experience we’d all had but never felt comfortable sharing: that of feeling compelled to appease the whims of an emotionally unstable partner. The last word of the story put a searing punctuation mark over the message: “Damn.”
The new film adaptation of cat person, however, seems to realize that the heartbreaking ending to the story and the general feeling of unease may not hit the same way as before. (It doesn’t help that we now know the backstory of “Cat Person’s” creation, thanks to a shocking Slate essay which details how Roupenian came to borrow generously from the lived experience of a young woman.) cat person in a trashy, absurd, bizarre, incredibly terrible thriller. I rarely text a friend while watching a movie to tell them how bad it is before it’s even finished – and I can count the number of friends I’ve texted during cat person on both hands.
Spoilers, of course, follow.
As “Cat Person,” the story ends with Margot, a 20-year-old college student, who receives a surprisingly cruel text from the much older man she recently broke up with, cat person the film finds such an open ending insufficient. Instead, second Margot (an underserved Emilia Jones) decides she’s not going to sit down and take 33-year-old Robert’s text shit.
Following this drunken text tirade – inspired by Margot’s failure to avoid bumping into Robert during drinks with friends, a bizarrely acted-for-laugh scene – Margot is convinced that the classic Nice Guy (SuccessionNicholas Braun, suitably clumsy) is now stalking her. She sees him waiting outside the movie theater where she works, but the cops say they can’t do anything unless he actually confronts her. So Margot decides to take him on instead, buying a mace and a tracker to stick on his car.
Despite her best friend Taylor’s (Geraldine Viswanathan) insistence not to, Margot goes to Robert’s house alone. The plan is to quickly annoy his car and dive in, which obviously won’t work since there’s at least 20 minutes of film left. Robert and his mean dog, whom Margot first saw following her house in the opening of the film, discover her in the garage and attempt to regain control of the situation.
Here’s what happens next: Margot sprays mace into her own eyes and slits her face open. She arrives, now inside Robert’s grim living room. Robert yells at Margot for being fake during their relationship, which consisted of two dates and a ton of text messages that he read and re-read over and over. In case you didn’t know the movie wanted you to believe nice guys aren’t nice guys, now you do!
But then Margot sneakily manages to call 911 when Robert finally goes to help her clean her itchy eyes, and all hell breaks loose. I couldn’t believe what was happening: Margot and Robert started fighting in the kitchen, yelling at each other, Margot trying to escape and Robert refusing to let her. He has to figure out how to handle this situation she’s put him in, he says, which will definitely ruin both of their lives.
Their fight takes them to the basement, where Margot accidentally starts a fire amid all the commotion. Robert drags her into his handy crawl space under the basement, saving both of their lives as the rest of his house burns down dramatically around them.
After all this drama, Robert quits his job and walks away – with his house on fire and a bloodied girl with a lump in her eye found next to him at the scene. Margot moves on with her life, and the film teases that she may not have learned her lesson by getting tangled up with a strange older man.
Reader, I lost it.
“Women don’t need such an over-the-top warning to play it safe with strangers, nor do we need the situation of potential domestic violence to explode to such a ridiculous degree.”
To recap: a short story that incisively unpacked the roles that men and women play in relationships has been adapted into a psycho-thriller in which said man and woman barely escape from their lives in a fire of house they ignited in a bloody fight. It’s ridiculous on its face, absent from the context of the source material. Women don’t need such an over-the-top warning to play it safe with strangers, nor do we need the situation of potential domestic violence to explode to such a ridiculous degree. Plunging headfirst into feverish chaos, cat person sacrifices all of the intimate intention that it should convey.
But it’s pretty clear from the start, anyway, with the film’s habit of indulging in stylized sequences of hypothetical situations Margot might get herself into with a man she barely knows: him strangling her. , him assaulting her, him murdering her in a closet, and so on. I would be hard pressed to find a person who would find the comedy in the pathetic ways in which these moments are envisioned here, but the comedy is what cat person keep hunting.
This may be because the truth of the short story – that women have only limited control in a patriarchal society that allows men to determine a relationship construct – is not as compelling in terms of cinematic than panicking about whether a woman will literally come out of a breakup alive. .
The best reminder the movie can give is that you have to block his number the second he says “damn” – and you have to turn cat person after that time, too.