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CAT'S MEOW, THE

SYNOPSIS:
It’s 1924 and wealthy media mogul William Randolph Hearst –WR to his friends – (Edward Hermann) opens his handsome cruising yacht to a handful of guests to celebrate the birthday of film producer Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes), who is trying to get Hearst to back him in a big way. Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard) uses the occasion to try and prise WR’s mistress, the adorable actress Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst) away from Hearst. But he’s not the only one on board with a secret agenda; other guests include society novelist Elinor Glynn (Joanna Lumley), New York based gossip columnist Louella Parsons (Jennifer Tilly) and actress Margaret Livingston (Claudia Harrison) who is the secret mistress of the married Ince. By the end of the trip, one person will be dead and a couple of relationships shattered. Inspired by real events that have never been fully explained.


Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Juicy by any standards, this tale of sex, celebrity, money and motives is irresistibly decadent and cinematically delicious. The ingredients include man’s most capricious and base aspects, as well as genuine love. The trick is to make the film not merely titillating but meaningful, and Peter Bogdanovich does just that by skinning his characters until we glimpse the complex tissue beneath: the vanity, the frailty, the desperation – and the reality of wealth power. Strikingly evocative production design and genuine music of the period captures the time and place superbly, and the performances are all magnificent, with Kirsten Dunst a shimmering and complete Marion in the key role. Eddie Izzard, avoiding any attempt at impersonation, finds a nice characterisation for Chaplin which develops as the film goes on, and Ed Herrmann brings both grit and vulnerability to WR, making the character accessible and readily understood – which is crucial to the film’s success. Joanna Lumley, whose character has the task of telling this ‘whisper’ of a story, manages to make Elinor Glynn both imperiously amusing and strangely compelling. Fine work by all, for what feels like a glimpse inside a hidden society of the famous and fortunate, who are not always that happy. 

Review by Louise Keller:
Filled with atmosphere of the swinging 20s, The Cat’s Meow is a scrumptious and compelling peep into the lives of an elite group on a weekend of ‘fun and frolic’. When you put together a paranoid media magnate, his flirtatious actress mistress, an ambitious film director with business and mistress problems, a sharp-tongued British novelist, a pushy gossip-columnist and a womanising film star, the ‘fun and frolic’ soon turns into a whirlwind of infidelity, blackmail, lust and murder. Most tantalising of all is the fact that the players are real people, albeit this story being a surmise of events about this weekend of mystery. The mood is marvellous, much aided by the decadent setting and delightful toe-tapping tunes of the era. Rather than honing in on the murder, Peter Bogdanovich concentrates on the characters and their motives, backgrounds, agendas – a little like Gosford Park in a way, and we get involved in all the lives of this group of disparate movers and shakers. Beautifully cast, Ed Hermann is imposing as the complex millionaire, a paradox of insecurity at the highest level, while Kirsten Dunst simply revels in the role of Marion. She is the life of the party, the perfect hostess and the glittering diamond that allures WR as well as Chaplin. Listen for Dunst’s singing rendition of ‘After You’ve Gone’, which can be heard through the closing credits. I really like Eddie Izzard’s portrayal of the woman-hungry charmer, Chaplin, while Joanna Lumley is divine as the sharp-shooting cynic whose vocabulary is filled with barbs. (‘Good manners are for waiters and doormen’ is one of my favourite lines.) Jennifer Tilly makes the most of her moments as Louella (‘Lolly to my friends’), seeking a lifetime of security, and watching her playing ping-pong on board, very bored, in high heels and hat is an unexpected hoot. There are some wonderful scenes – my favourite is when Marion and Chaplin team up to play charades. Their mimed rendition is great: so filled with humour, subtlety and for those in the know (and that includes us, the audience), reeking with danger of unspoken passions. The lyrics of the song say it all: ‘There’s nothing surer – the rich get rich and the poor get poorer; In the meantime – in between time, ain’t we got fun.’

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

CAT'S MEOW, THE (M)
(Canada/Germany/UK)

CAST: Kirsten Dunst, Edward Herrman, Eddie Izzard, Cary Elwes, Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Tilly, Claudia Harrison, Ronan Vibert, Victor Slezak

PRODUCER: Kim Bieber, Carol Lewis

DIRECTOR: Peter Bogdanovich

SCRIPT: Steven Peros

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bruno Delbonnel

EDITOR: Edward G. Norris

MUSIC: Ian Whitcomb

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jean-Vincent Puzos

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 19, 2002







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