Cat Person – Sundance 2023

Emilia Jones and Nicholas Braun appear in Cat Person by Susanna Fogel, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Cat Person is a genre-bending thriller from filmmaker Susanna Fogel that explores the horrors of dating in the 21st century.

The Margaret Atwood quote at the start of the film really hits it on the money because it sets up the tone for what’s about to transpire on screen: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

Whether you’re a fan of Susanna Fogel, Emilia Jones, or Nicholas Braun, you need to know right now that this is not an easy film to watch. The film brings Kristen Roupenian’s 2017 New Yorker short story to the big screen. There are many horrifying moments that come in the thriller’s two-hour run time. It’s not necessarily a horror film but let’s be honest in that it very well could be.

Margot (Emilia Jones) is a college sophomore and works at a movie theater. She meets Robert (Nicholas Braun), an older guy, while she works the concessions. They chat and every now and then, we’ll see one of Margot’s fantasies about Robert. It’s only when they start texting each other that they begin to really connect with one another. However, people can be whoever they want to be over texts or social media. It’s only when one has in-person interactions that we begin to see who they really are. Margot should have realized that Robert was bad news when they got locked in a storage room on campus. I mean, here’s a guy that just shocks her out of the blue by bringing food if it means spending time with her.

While it may be a cringey watch, Michelle Ashford’s script goes all in when it comes to modern dating horrors. If you knew nothing about the film going into it, you might think it’s a basic relationship movie. As we move deeper into the story, we find that no, this is not a simple relationship film but one that delves into an area between horror and thriller. This film really shows the extent of which dating can be horrifying. What is their personality like outside of sending text messages? We rarely get glimpses of Robert outside of his interactions with Margot. Margot fantasizes about what Robert might do for a living but that’s it. Her friends–including roommate Taylor (Geraldine Viswanathan)–even look out for her but Margot ignores them until it’s too late.

I love how the film uses a Star Wars film to its advantage even if Margot thinks the franchise is boring. People have every right to their own movie tastes while people have every right to disagree with them. But anyway, the moment leads to an awkward moment outside a bar and an even more awkward kiss later on. As if things couldn’t get any more awkward, Margot comes up with the not-so-genius idea to go home with Robert. This only spells disaster from here on out as her subconscious speaks to her. You can tell a mile away that these two are not right for each other!

Is Robert a villain or is he simply misunderstood? It really depends on how one reads into it. When one looks at things through Margot’s perspective, it’s clear as day. This is a film that plays into the current conversation in the #MeToo movement. Will Cat Person do for dating what Get Out did for race? We’ll just have to wait and see. Regardless, it’s very provocative in getting its message across the screen.

It’s been a few years since Susanna Fogel directed a film. Remember The Spy Who Dumped Me? The two films couldn’t be more different from each other! The former certainly offers a better time in terms of entertainment. This is one where audiences will just go WTF as things continually get worse on screen. In terms of its entertainment value, one is not going to watch Cat Person for entertainment because there’s nothing entertaining about the film. No, we’re watching it because it makes us think about the current dynamics as they are.

Cat Person is a very provocative film but it’s not going to be for everyone especially since it has so many cringe-worthy moments.

DIRECTOR: Susanna Fogel
SCREENWRITER: Michelle Ashford
CAST: Emilia Jones, Nicholas Braun, Geraldine Viswanathan, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini, Liza Koshy, Isaac Powell

Cat Person holds its world premiere during the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres program. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.