By Michael Chantiri
Last year a movie transcended all barriers, a movie so campy, weird, extravagant and ballsy that the world cowered in fear. I am of course talking about the 2019 film “Cats” directed by Tom Hooper. Like everyone I lambasted the trailer, tossing it aside as a furry nightmare gone wrong.
When initial reviews started coming out the film was panned nearly across the board. It’s critics targeted its poorly done CGI, lack of plot, crazy structure, spasmodic camera work and lacklustre performances. However dear reader I am hear to tell you that these areas that were derided are it’s ultimate strength. These elements highlight it’s camp and glamorous leanings.
The plot and structure reflects the tone poem of the original production. The music, choreography and emotion is used to provoke a response out of the viewer (rather than a A-B plot). When we go to see the ballet we go for the dancing rather than the plot. Cats is similar but it has a surprising depth in it’s cult/tribalism undercurrent. The camera work mirrors a fly on the wall technique and portrays a free flowing immersive feel. The CGI requires some getting used to but for a good majority of the film the CGI is quite well done and creative.
Now I would not blame you if you hated this cluster of hairy felines but for those who are ready to embrace the weirdness there is much to be found. I did not embrace this film in all it’s glory initially I had a journey from liking to loving it. What follows is a series of diary entries which shows my journey with the film. Without further ado:
When I walked in for my screening for Cats I felt a lot of things. Fear, dread, excitement and hope, pretty much the whole spectrum of emotion. When I came out I felt confused because Cats is not a bad movie. Yes, that’s right, despite what you’ve heard Cats is an almost engaging mixture of weirdness, trippy imagery and a comprehensible narrative. I liked the music quite a bit (The production and arrangements really help), the actors bring a good deal of personality to their roles and the free moving camera work helps to really immerse you in this world.
3 out of 5 stars.
Yes I watched this again, yes I liked it even more the second time. My mind wasn’t paranoid going into this so I could just sit back and enjoy the movie as I knew what to expect. The film still has flaws mind you (for more detail see my last review) but the frenetic energy, weird imagery and fun tone really immerse you in the insanity of it. The movie has a very loose plot, combines decades worth of culture (40s iconography, 80s cheese and 2000s melodrama) and is a homage to crazy cult classic films.
All the actors give it their all especially Jason Derulo and Taylor Swift who’s energy is just infectious and undeniable. The constant assault of different songs and moods can be overwhelming at times but once you submit yourself to the fever dream it’s absolutely compelling. The set design really stood out to me this time having an array of different colors and spooky designs (reminds me of the Xbox games I used to play when I was a kid). I’m kinda a bit disappointed at the critical mauling this was subjected to (going as far as to remove it from academy consideration).
I honestly think it’s great that a weird, loosely plotted film exists on a mainstream level. As much as certain aspects could’ve been done better, I can’t deny how much fun I had with this. Cats is one of those films where most people won’t be on its wavelength (and that’s totally fine) but for the people who are it’s a glamorous ride from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell.
4 out of 5 stars
I am glad I have seen this three times and I’m ready to see it another three times and beyond. The second half of the film is just electric sequence after another and perfectly taps into it’s emotional centre; accepting other people’s individuality and giving them the opportunity to start a new. This just gives off so much fun and pure cult energy from start to finish.
Shout-out to the girl complaining about the film afterwards, making sure everyone in the theatre heard it, I bet it makes you feel good making people feel bad for liking a film ugh.
4 1/2 out of 5 stars
As I am writing this review I am a bit of an emotional wreak. After reading Izzy H’s review I started to look at this through the lens of a trans person being accepted into a community and let’s just say it adds another emotional layer. This makes already weird and emotional story all the more meaningful and relevant. While this is subtext I think it adds a whole lot of richness to the film as a whole.
EDIT: I forgot to mention my theatre clapped afterwards and it was exhilarating as hell.
4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Me and my friend were absolutely annoying in the theatre but we didn’t care. It was a glorious time and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I have talked enough about Cats in my previous reviews so I don’t need to bore you but it’s the most rewatchable film I have ever seen.
I’M BUSTOPHER JONES, IM NOT SKIN AND BONES, IN FACT, I’M REMARKABLY FATTTTT
4 1/2 out of 5 stars
You know with the amount of hate this film is getting and the fact that some of my friends were calling me “objectively wrong” for liking this, I was prepared to go into this with a sceptical eye. I would like to apologise to any of the haters because yes I still love this film. In every single frame, there is so much fun and infectious energy. Everything is so detailed yet holistic which is a testament to the production design on this thing. I find it hard to watch and hate it, everything is just so entrancing, campy and weird. It’s like it was made specifically for me. The movie is surrealist, emotion and theme-driven and this allows for so much legroom for people to draw their own conclusions. The film is meant to provoke a visceral emotional reaction out of you. Issues of identity, past, future and rebirth are there to provoke your imagination and emotional stimuli.
If you don’t respond to it that’s fine but a certain person will have an entirely different experience. Cats might (or might not) be intended to be a homage to cult B movies, Cats in its very nature is to be outrageous, ridiculous and extreme.
The musical takes a lot from 70s/80s glam and put it into the context of a musical. Take the songs “Rum Tum Tugger”, “Macavity”, “Mr Mistoffelees”, “Jellicle Cats”, “Gumbie Cat” etc. They are all glam inspired, over the top and ridiculous songs. All of them pay tribute to the eccentricity of that era. Hooper with the style and cinematography mirrors this glam aesthetic. It might not be cult in intention but it is glam in intention. I want to stress that this is subjective and not an objective quality. This is just how I see the film and if you see that as a non-existent or negative quality that’s totally fine. Even if we ignore all that the film still has a lot of things to say about the dangers of cults/tribalism.
I am a sucker for weirdness, I am a sucker for camp, I am a sucker for musicals, I am a sucker for loose plots, I am a sucker for people in cat CGI and Cats ticks all those boxes. It’s got the one thing I want in a film; emotional storytelling and Cats does that to a tea. If you don’t like it that’s fine but I’ll keep cherishing this film for many Jellicle moons to come.
5 out of 5 stars