Based on the 2017 short story of the same name by Kristen Roupenian, Cat Person follows Margot (Emilia Jones), a 20-year-old sophomore student who starts dating Robert (Nicholas Braun), an older man who’s a regular at the cinema where she works. Margot has a great time chatting over texts with Robert, but his in-person demeanour turns out to be at odds with the version of him she sees over text, causing Margot to question both her relationship with Robert and her judgement in navigating the uncertain waters of said relationship.
Much like Robert, Cat Person is a film of two halves, with a noticeable difference between parts lifted from the short story and parts added for the cinematic version. To the movie’s credit, when it’s adapting the original it does so effectively, making great use of the medium to enhance the concepts from the prose by mixing and contrasting the visual languages of romcoms and horror films, juxtaposing the idealised version of events that Margot desperately tries to hold onto against the grim reality of both Robert as a person and the society that created him.
Margot emerges mostly unscathed from the original, with Jones doing a fantastic job at representing the messy everywoman, and while Robert has been retooled into a big Harrison Ford fanboy, facilitating commentary on how popular media can condition men to have problematic ideas of romance, this adjustment doesn’t interfere with the central dynamic too much.
However, the film, unfortunately, falters in its additions to the script. While adding a wider cast of characters and extending the events of the original story makes sense as a way of bringing Cat Person to the silver screen and broadening its exploration of feminist ideas, many plot beats bolted onto Margot and Robert’s drama don’t integrate well with the piece’s core themes, feeling superfluous at best and robbing the tale of its compelling ambiguity and universality at worst.
Cat Person is an ambitious adaptation of a popular short story, and a lot of passion has clearly gone into its attempts to use Roupenian’s writing as a jumping-off point to examine a range of important talking points. While it generally succeeds in translating Roupenian’s ideas into a cinematic experience, its innovations outside of that mission statement sometimes feel as if they’ve lost sight of the piece’s original appeal, to the detriment of the film’s strengths.
Cat Person is released nationwide on 27th October 2023.
Watch the trailer for Cat Person here: