Good afternoon, dear readers! Before we get into the meat of this post, let me paws for a second to share some fairly exciting news. As any of you who have me on Facebook, Instagram etc. might be aware, this week I had my work published for the very first time! Myself and eleven other people on the Horror/ Science Fiction/ Fantasy module at university had our work published in the short anthology Robots, Rogues & Revenants. All proceeds of the sales go to NHS combined charities, and the book is available physically or on Kindle here: https://amzn.to/3lWGYcV
With all that being said, here’s another Journalism coursework piece from me. Despite The Lighthouse being one of the best films I’ve seen in years, this film was infinitely more life changing… just not in a good way. This is a review of Cats (2019).
When Universal Pictures brought Oscar-winning Tom Hooper on to direct their plucky $61 million adaption of the legendary musical Les Misérables, everybody won. The studio made around $441 million worldwide; the film’s cast and crew were nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three. So, when it came time for Universal to produce an adaption of another smash hit musical, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Cats, the question on everyone’s lips was: “Can Hooper pull it out of the bag a second time?”
And now we know the answer.
Bravely deciding to include a plot, Cats opens with a mildly distressing scene as young white cat Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is abandoned by her owners at the entrance to a dark London alleyway. From here she meets the local gang of cats, the “Jellicles”, and learns that tonight is the Jellicle Ball: an event held once a year, under a Jellicle moon, where each cat performs for Jellicle leader Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi Dench) for a chance to ascend to the Heaviside layer and be reborn. As soon as Victoria’s out the bag, so begins just under two hours of musical introductions.
The soundtrack is both the point of the movie and the thing I have the most praise for. It was fine. The music and singing were good, and Macavity’s song is incredibly catchy (despite Taylor Swift’s forced English accent). It’s lucky that the songs are decent, because the movie doesn’t ever let up: there’s barely a breather as each cat belts out its introductory tune right off the back of the last one. However, it’s hard to give the movie too much credit for this as it’s ultimately building off the musical here. By the end of the introductory song, you’ll wish you never had to hear the word “Jellicle” again.
The set design is decent too, as each set was built to scale to make the actors seem the size of, well, cats. The cinematography is alternatively interesting or jarring, lending substance to the rumour that the camera may have been operated by human hands and not just possessed.
But most other elements of the film will give you paws for thought. The images of the actor’s faces floating on furry CGI were-cat bodies is unsettling at best, looking even more unsettling as they prance about during the songs. This doesn’t just stop at the principal cast; there’s a whole sequence involving little mice with human faces, as well as a marching parade of human-faced cockroaches. Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots, who is organising this whole ordeal, decides to eat some of the cockroaches as they march. I wish I were making this up.
Perhaps the most baffling thing about this film, apart from the fact nobody stopped at any point to consider if this was a good idea, is the sheer star-power its cast packs. Idris Elba plays the mysterious Macavity, and it’s hardly a career-best performance. Jason Derulo plays Rum Tum Tugger (he’s a curious cat, by the way) and his performance brings an intense sexual chemistry that nobody really wanted from this film. Newcomer Francesca Hayward provides some emotion and grace to Victoria, but I hope for her sake that it’s only upwards from here.
Judi Dench and Ian McKellen, both of whom have received awards from the Queen herself, are also a part of this film. Sir Ian spend half his performance lapping from bowls and doddering about; Dame Judi has a particularly nightmarish direct-to-audience monologue where she politely informs us that a cat is not a dog, amongst other wise observations.
Although I have tried, Cats is an experience that cannot be properly summed up into words. It is a life-changing watch. Viewing it is akin to screaming into the maw of the great abyss and having the abyss yowl and hiss back.