Patience Philips (Halle Berry) is a mild mannered and downtrodden designer at the giant Hedare Cosmetics, run by the dictatorial George Hedare (Lambert Wilson) and his ice queen wife, Laurel (Sharon Stone), who has been the face of Hedare for many years. Until now, when George wants a younger woman's face to promote the company's latest line in anti-ageing. When Patience accidentally overhears how dangerous the anti-ageing cream really is, she is killed. But a mysterious new life force, delivered by a cat, resurrects her, and her new persona is not the shy retiring type. She can now kick butt, do back flips and all her senses are sharper. The new girl has feline powers and lotsa sass, and a new wardrobe to suit: black leather with bits missing to reveal some flesh. All this remains a secret to her newfound boyfriend Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt), the detective who's tracking a series of crimes, which all seem to point to the city's newest citizen: Catwoman.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Rated NFD (Not For the Discerning), Catwoman plays like a giant music video with bits of a feature film popped in to give it length. The style is definitely MTV, with camera slurs, editing frenzy and image manipulation added to the special effects that make Halle Berry seem like a flying cat across the skyline. She can dive out of a window and land in a crouch position, and otherwise execute feats of great agility combined with martial arts with feline influences. Yep, it's a fantasy allright, a wish fulfilment for young girls and women who'd like to be dressed to kill.
Benjamin Bratt hangs on to reality for all he's worth, and Halle Berry is thrown from high camp foolery to dramatic intensity with reckless abandon. Sharon Stone plunges into her discarded-but-still-powerful-wife role with glee, while Lambert Wilson replays his sneering, egomaniac misogynist corporate baddie he practiced in Timeline and The Matrix series.
Halle Berry has the impossible task of trying to bring some credibility to her split personality character, and as good as she is, it can't be done. She can blame director Pitof, who lets her gobble up food from tins that look like cat food and bits of fish at a restaurant in scenes that are funny - but in the wrong tone. Catwoman wears her style as proudly as she wears her blood red lipstick. She does not slobber. In another scene the mysterious cat lady who knows her secret, gives Patience a ball of catnip which Berry rubs around her nose and mouth with animalistic interest. It's not a good look, but bravo for bravery, Halle. There is a lot of contrary posing and pouting a la fashion catwalk, too, which is part of the MTV side of the film. The dramatic side is plain dull.
Some of the scenes are so perfunctorily shot that we marvel at the audacity: a ferris wheel almost disintegrates, nearly killing all its passengers, but after a kid is dramatically rescued by an athletic Patience, everyone goes about their business as normal. The view from a prison cell is a giant glamour billboard. A smart nightspot is situated inside a depot of shipping containers. Obviously, designers have been let loose on the set, without restraint.
A formulaic script and a flashy director (pitof a showoff) can only please some of the audience some of the time, but there is at least some excellent cinematography to compensate.
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CAST: Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Sharon Stone, Lambert Wilson, Frances Conroy
DIRECTOR: Pitof (aka Jean-Christophe Comar )
SCRIPT: Theresa Rebeck, John Brancato, Michael Ferris, John Rogers (Bob Kane characters, Marvel Comics)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thierry Arbogast
EDITOR: Sylvie Landra
MUSIC: Claus Badelt
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bill Brzeski
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 16, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: January 13, 2005
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.