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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.69%
Worth A Look: 11.54%
Pretty Bad: 15.38%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Cat's Meow, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Cat without claws"
2 stars

The Catís Meow squanders the opportunity to enliven or satisfactorily explain an odd footnote in Hollywood history Ė an incident that apparently featured in the first draft of Citizen Kane. In 1924, media magnate William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann) invited a select group aboard his steamer, the Oneida, for a weekend. The climax to the cruise was a murder but none of the guests were forthcoming as to what happened. The few accounts were contradictory. The Catís Meow purports to describe ďthe whisper most often toldĒ.

As presented here, the cruise is ostensibly to celebrate the birthday of pioneering film producer Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes), whose career has fallen on hard times. Itís really been arranged so Hearst can spy on his mistress, starlet Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst), in the presence of Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard). Sheís recently been seen around town with Chaplin, whose lust for young girls is legendary. Among the other guests are droll English novelist Elinor Glyn (Joanna Lumley) and aspiring movie columnist Louella Parsons (Jennifer Tilly), looking for a chance to make her name in Hollywood.

The Catís Meow suffers from being released only six months after Gosford Park, a far superior upper-crust period murder mystery. There were more characters in Gosford Park, but each was more complex than any of the handful on display here. The secondary roles have one function only - for instance, Margaret Livingston (Claudia Harrison) just wanders the boat looking sulky and telling other guests that she is Inceís mistress. Even the main characters rarely stray beyond one dimension. Davies is alluring, Parsons wants to gossip, Glyn spouts witty and venomous one-liners, Hearst looks lost and jealous at the thought of Daviesí betrayal, Ince is desperate to make the deal that will restart his career.

Only Izzard, who has to play the most recognised figure, injects flair and personality into his portrait of Chaplin. Lumley has too small a role to leave much impression, and Dunst is all over the place - convincingly of the period one moment, alarmingly contemporary the next.

I canít imagine The Catís Meow was much more exciting on stage unless the actors were allowed to sparkle more than they do here (Steven Peros adapted his own play for the screen). Part of the problem is that most of these people were rich and conservative boors who purchased the latest trends and fashions and surrounded themselves with glamorous types in the hope of catching reflected stardust. They werenít interesting in their own right. Glyn and Chaplin are soon bored at this party, in spite of the expensive entertainment, and so are we. Peros reduces the crux of the story to a routine love triangle.

Nor does The Catís Meow make for a compelling mystery. The film begins with a redundant black and white scene at a funeral: who dies? whoís the murderer? But if youíve seen Citizen Kane or know even a little about Hollywood, youíll know who of the main cast survives. And, frankly, the rest are too thinly sketched to bother about. As for the killer, since the incident was suppressed in the media, itís not hard to deduce that Hearst may have been personally involved or else protecting someone close to him.

Peter Bogdanovich directs at a stolid pace. Aside from some of Izzardís Chaplinesque flourishes, thereís nothing light or carefree about The Catís Meow. It says nothing new about Hollywood, only making several less than startling observations about money, power and morality. Even the heavy 1920s music and costumes and design threaten to smother the production.

ďThe catís meowĒ was 1920s slang, all but fallen from use today, for someone or something special. It's not to be taken as an indication of this film's quality.

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originally posted: 08/10/02 17:59:19
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User Comments

7/01/08 Danny Good cast makes it watchable, nothing more. Rather bland. 3 stars
4/30/08 Rosanna Excellent story; terrific acting; very entertaining movie 4 stars
5/23/06 Ashley Hinz I didn't like it. Good enough cast, if the script weren't so stupid. 2 stars
1/07/06 paolo enea Boring and predictable. Izzard is a nice guy but doesn't stand any comparison with Chaplin 2 stars
11/08/05 tatum Entertaining, with a great cast and look 4 stars
6/05/05 Dale Manoogian Great film in all categories. Don't miss it! 5 stars
1/27/04 Katie Malone One of the best movies I've ever seen! 5 stars
10/16/03 regina great story some good acting 4 stars
9/30/03 Hussein Dunst played Marian Davies just the way I imagined Davies would be. 4 stars
6/10/03 Goofy Maxwell Dunst is the next Jodie Foster--bright, choosy child-star-turned-miscast-stalked-starlet. 3 stars
12/31/02 John Aster Habig anything with Kirsten makes me horny 4 stars
11/28/02 Gaiia it's good, but at the end, you feel like it could've been better 3 stars
8/27/02 Phoenix I wanna fuck the living shit out of Kirsten Dunst. Really want to put my cock up her ass. 5 stars
5/27/02 Jenna The movie is fantastic...critics are just jelous actor wannabe's! 5 stars
5/25/02 Suzz Dunst is great and the film very entertaining. 4 stars
5/12/02 Teresa I wanted to love it but it needed better dialog or plot. 3 stars
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  12-Apr-2002 (PG-13)



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