Review: “The Cat’s Meow”

A harkening back to a Hollywood of a different era, Peter Bogdonovich’s film take on one of the most famous ‘Tinseltown scandals’ of the time fires right out of the barrel with a first act that’s one of the most biting satires of the film industry in a long time – from the bitchiness and back stabbing, to the territory grabbing and power plays – the character dynamics are set up thick and fast with delightful tension and wit’, ‘A harkening back to a Hollywood of a different era, Peter Bogdonovich’s film take on one of the most famous ‘Tinseltown scandals’ of the time fires right out of the barrel with a first act that’s one of the most biting satires of the film industry in a long time – from the bitchiness and back stabbing, to the territory grabbing and power plays – the character dynamics are set up thick and fast with delightful tension and wit. Sadly as events turn more dramatic and focus on the love triangle issue, the supporting cast is moved to the back burner and the playful sense is lost to a well staged if somewhat unengaging drama.

This is the kind of film which should’ve been left in Robert Altman’s hands as it seems a perfect set up for a film of his style. Performances are solid across the board with pretty much all true to their complex characters which seem designed to play to each of their specific strengths and they revel in it. Dunst and Izzard especially turn tough roles into thoroughly credible performances, though Hermann overdoes it a little as Hearst – any man in that level of power would have more control of himself and his emotions than this film version portrays him.

However easily my favourite is our narrator of the story – Joanna Lumley whose character has a healthy sense of cynicism and a wise grasp of the industry she’s in and how it works, she’ll enjoy the fruits of it but is never once pulled into the facade that showbusiness is. Lumley has always proven one of the UK’s strongest character actors and plays her part beautifully. Still, after one of the strongest first acts I’ve seen in a film this year, the story begins to weaken – the tension which was quickly setup now vanishes as smaller characters are relegated to the background. Izzard and Durst are likeable characters on their own but their chemistry together is not that great and the age difference of the actors doesn’t help.

The killing itself, pushed as they key element of the film, is so low key its surprising and the post death scenes of figuring out what to do are an exercise in tedium as Dunst mopes about whilst Izzard frets – Hermann’s weakened part in the middle act picks up here as he starts acting more like a mogul would whilst Tilly’s character shares an interesting blackmail/bribe scene with him which reminds you of how strong the opening scenes were and how the film has languished since. Despite a strong ending which makes an interesting statement, this is too slow and uninteresting for most of its runtime to really engage an audience.