February 8, 2023

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‘Cat Person’: Audience Laughs, Squirts at Sundance Premiere

2 min read

One of the most anticipated films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was “Cat Person,” Kristen Rupenian’s feature adaptation of the viral New Yorker story of the same name. The world premiere on January 21 left the Eccles Theater audience in tears at this dark look at modern dating.

Directed by Susanna Fogel from a screenplay by Michelle Ashford, “Cat Person” stars “CODA” breakout Emilia Jones and “Legacy” favorite Nicholas Brown as a new couple whose lives become tangled together amid many red flags and miscommunications. Told from the perspective of Jones’ intelligent college student Margot, her relationship with older local man Robert (Bran) begins to strain because, despite mutual attraction, their communication styles don’t match. But as their romance progresses, the film touches on contemporary discussions such as the changing nature of consent and honesty in relationships.

“We want to show people the gray areas in intimacy and dating,” Fogel said in a post-screening Q&A.

Ashford said one of the things that drew him to the project was the opportunity to write complex characters.

“A lot of people thought one of these characters had to be the villain,” he said. “What we’re saying is no one is a villain — it’s just a catastrophic miscommunication.”

Miscommunication led to the most intense backlash at the premiere. From Margot’s perspective, the audience witnesses a long and uncomfortable first kiss, as well as an endlessly awkward sex scene, both of which make the crowd weep with frustration.

In fact, when asked in a Q&A about the key to developing her chemistry with Jones, Brown said, “The first thing I remember was the awful kiss — that was the first step to figuring it out.”

Yet the misunderstandings led to many big laughs, such as a series of quick-cut fantasy sequences in which Margot tries to understand Robert, along with a running gag featuring Fred Melamed as a wise therapist.

Despite a handful of walkouts during the violent final act, “Cat Person” explored complex emotional issues in a funny and visually-engaging manner, with every comedic hit and every cringe-inducing moment cutting deep with the audience.

It was fitting that when introducing the first photo, Fogel said, “I hope it makes you all very uncomfortable.”

“Cat Person” is a top selling title at this year’s festival. StudioCanal/UTA represents worldwide rights.

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