• PG-13, 1 hr. 52 min.
  • Drama, Comedy
  • Directed By:
    Peter Bogdanovich
    In Theaters:
    Aug 3, 2001 Wide
    On DVD:
    Aug 20, 2002
  • Lions Gate Films Releasing

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The Cat's Meow Reviews

Page 2 of 14
April 3, 2014
I had a lot of fun but saw it with a huge crowd of about a dozen people the day it opened. Kirsten Dunst was a delight.
September 29, 2007
Good movie. Character-development is good, and the fact that some of the characters are fairly famous adds some spice. Plot is good, having an Agatha Christie-type mystery feel to it. Sub-plots are intriguing, especially the bitter-sweet relationship between Charlie Chaplin and Marion Davies. The thought that this could be a true story adds a sense of history, and the sense of injustice at the end adds a real-world grittiness.

Kirsten Dunst is superb as Marion Davies. She captured Davies' comedic qualities perfectly, doing great justice to her. Great idea to cast her in the role, as it fitted her like a glove.

Good support from Eddie Izzard, Cary Elwes, Joanna Lumley and Edward Herrmann. Jennifer Tilly is more bearable than usual.
familiar s

Super Reviewer

November 8, 2013
Went for it just because it's based on true events. Turns out it's based on rumors. No problem. Was surprised to learn that Chaplin was so scandalous. The story was not so so-so, but the performances and casting were. Historically, if the given version is correct, it's quite significant in depicting the height of corruption. As to me, I really don't know. If he's shot, why didn't anyone come forward even after Hearst's death? If he wasn't, why the characters involved got a promotion soon after it. It surely was given a touch of a cover up. The movie doesn't tend to explain it, it simply presents (modification of) one of the versions of this mysterious event. Could have been way better.
DrStrangeblog
DrStrangeblog

Super Reviewer

June 4, 2013
Spirited speculation over one of Hollywood's most infamous mysterious deaths, as producer Thomas Ince gets the final cut aboard publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst's yacht populated by era luminaries including Marion Davies and Charlie Chaplin. Director Peter Bogdanovich ranks among the most knowledgeable movie history nerds, and they don't come any nerdier. Kirsten Dunst playfully flaunts her effortless charm as the glamorous Davies, while Eddie Izzard at first seems a strange choice to play Chaplin but grows into the role. The truth will remain hidden, but this offers a plausible simulation in light of the peculiar business deals (payoffs?) that followed. 500 bonus points if you've ever wanted to see Dunst dance the Charleston!
John B

Super Reviewer

June 4, 2013
Gawd this is a boring film. Hearst and Chaplin were probably rolling over in their graves at their portrayals in this film. Neither of them were particularly interesting to hang out with. Kirsten Dunst portrays annoying as no one else can.
July 30, 2007
Nothing like a bit of hearsay and circumstantial evidence. Maybe it happened that way, seems likely all things considered. Ah, the 1920s.
Dann M

Super Reviewer

March 17, 2013
Quirky and entertaining, The Cat's Meow is a captivating period film about a fascinating piece of Hollywood lore. Inspired by true events and based on a play, the story attempts to unravel a notorious Hollywood murder that supposedly occurred aboard the yacht of wealthy media tycoon William Randolph Hearst in 1924. Kirsten Dunst, Edward Herrmann, Eddie Izzard, and Cary Elwes form a solid cast and give good performances. Additionally, the makeup and costumes are especially well-done, and give an authentic look and feel to the film. However, the storytelling is poor and gets a little lost in itself. The Cat's Meow is an intriguing murder mystery, but there are some problems with the execution.
March 13, 2013
Bogdanovich re-enacts one of the scandalous gossip items from Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon but it is just too flat and too literal. Did anyone really feel a sense of mystery here? The recreation of the 1920's feels very cliche, but that may be the fault of the original play rather than anything Bogdanovich brought to the table. Supposedly his "comeback" or at least his finest film in years, which is really a sad thing when you think about The Last Picture Show and Targets. Now I'm less keen to see what he does with Orson Welles' half-finished films (The Other Side of the Wind), if given the chance. Anyway, this one is about the death of Thomas H. Ince on William Randolph Hearst's yacht. Kirsten Dunst is pretty good as Marion Davies but Eddie Izzard got on my nerves as Chaplin.
September 13, 2012
Obsession, combined with jealousy, was the impetus for an incident that occurred in November of 1924, aboard the yacht of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, and which in the years since has become the stuff of Hollywood legend and lore. The story has many versions, but the `whisper told most often,' is the one recounted in `The Cat's Meow,' directed by Peter Bogdanovich, a dramatization of what may or may not have happened during that extended weekend birthday-party cruise in honor of pioneer film director, Thomas Ince, which included an eclectic guest list of the rich, famous and powerful. What is known, is that the party ended with the death of one of the guests, and that foul play and an ensuing cover-up have long been suspected, but never proved. And one thing is certain: Not a single person aboard the yacht at the time has ever spoken of what happened, at least not publicly; but there are those who believe to this day, that someone just may have gotten away with murder.

Once a powerful force in a young Hollywood, Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes)-- who had formed Triangle Films with D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett, and later founded Paramount Studios with Adolph Zukor-- has fallen on hard times. Once responsible for forty pictures a year, he now struggles to get a single film made. And, his birthday aside, he has decided to mix business with pleasure during this cruise, pitching an idea to Hearst (Edward Herrmann), to combine their resources and make movies together. Hearst, however, has other things on his mind; rumor has it that his mistress, Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst), is being courted by Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), and he has brought them together, here, to observe and decide for himself if anything untoward is going on between them. Hearst is not only in love with Davies, but is obsessed with her, as well as the course of her career, and he's not about to let this baggy-pants comic actor interfere. And Hearst, a powerful and controlling man, always gets what he wants-- and what he wants right now is for this business with Chaplin to disappear. So it is, that in the midst of celebration, paranoia overtakes the host of the party, and it's about to cast a pall over the proceedings and ultimately involve everyone aboard in one of the greatest unsolved mysteries ever to come out of Tinsel Town. It's a story that Hearst keeps out of the papers, making sure in his own way that dead men, indeed, tell no tales.

Bogdanovich successfully captures the era, as well as the mendacity of this rich assortment of characters, who are all the more intriguing for the fact that they are real people rather than the product of imagination; and it proves that fact is often more bizarre than fiction. The excesses and overindulgences of many within the Hollywood community during this period rivals anything happening today, and one of the most telling scenes in the film is when novelist Elinor Glyn (Joanna Lumley) offers her take on what Hollywood really is and what it does to those who dwell within. Glyn is also the narrator of the film; a wise choice, as it adds a balanced perspective to the events as they unfold, and are summarily grounded by her often wry and incisive observations. The final words of the film are hers, in fact; a final observation that encompasses so much in so few words, that it provides an impact that makes it the perfect ending. And it makes you realize what a terrific job Bogdanovich did with this film, and how well he brought this material (screenplay by Steven Paros, which he adapted from his own play) to life.

The film is highlighted by a number of excellent and memorable performances, beginning with Herrmann as Hearst. This is possibly the best work he's ever done in his career, perfectly capturing the many facets of this extremely complex man. There's a depth to his performance that conveys not only the bravura of a powerful individual-- and one who delights in using it-- but the vulnerability, as well. He also makes you cognizant of the fact that Hearst is a man capable of almost anything, including creating his own reality, and maintaining it with his limitless resources. It's one of the subtle, underlying nuances that Herrmann brings to his portrayal, which is altogether convincing and believable.

Kirsten Dunst also rises to the occasion, turning in a remarkable performance as Marion Davies. It's a concise reflection of a young actress caught up in a situation that is at once enviable and undesirable, who manages to tactfully negotiate the sensitive issues with which she is faced with a sensibility and maturity beyond her years. And through Dunst, we see the many layers of Davies' personality; the fun-loving girl, as well as the responsible woman, who finds herself in a perpetually tentative environment and selflessly refrains from playing the prima donna or attempting to act as if she is the center of the universe-- something to which too many others who have been swallowed up by the Hollywood lifestyle over the years are prone. It's a comprehensive and convincing performance that proves that Dunst has the stuff to fulfill the promise made by her work in previous films.

The performance that surpasses them all, however, is turned in by Eddie Izzard, as Chaplin. Izzard captures the very essence of Chaplin, physically and emotionally, with a detailed portrayal of the man, created through expression and astute introspection. This is not the on-screen persona, the `Little Tramp,' but Chaplin the complex individual and artist who is presented here. Izzard brings him to life with singular nuance and depth, and it's a performance that should, by all rights, earn him an Oscar nomination. Skillfully acted and presented, `The Cat's Meow' is a memorable film that offers some insights into a town and lifestyle that few have ever experienced.
The Critic
November 4, 2012
A pedigree of talent fails to ignite what should've been an intriguing tale, in which a collection of the social elite cover-up the murder of film pioneer Thomas Ince. Things only get crackling when the scene-stealing Jennifer Tilly appears as gossip columnist Louella Parsons, but this competently made piece proves to be too slow-burning for its own purpose.
Andrew K.
September 9, 2012
Average, a bit drawn out. Good performances, but did not draw me in much.
August 28, 2012
What was the overall point of this movie? It's mostly plotless and despite some nice period costumes and music, it's pretty boring. And it has plenty of tonal issues, too. Not worth seeing.
August 11, 2012
As my girlfriend said, this is an 'acceptable' effort, but it's really hard to get past Eddie Izzard's portrayal of Charlie Chaplin. I like Izzard, but I love Chaplin, and Izzard wasn't right to play him in the slightest. He's a not too tall English comedian, but the similarities end there. A big factor is he doesn't look right physically, Izzard being not fat but a little too well-rounded to play the slim Chaplin. Then there is his acting. He gives Chaplin a somewhat smarmy, lecherous quality. This didn't sit well with me. Yes it's well known that Charlie had a way with women, but he had such sweetness that you can't help but feel that his seducing was done with a charm and an effeminate smile and grace that Izzard is completely lacking in. It makes you realise just how brilliant Robert Downey Jr. was in Richard Attenborough's Chaplin. Edward Herrman as William Randolph Hearst and Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies are both fine but this is very much a lightweight affair that struggles to make a gripping story out of a 'whisper'.
July 22, 2012
For the record, I made it only 25 minutes in, but I did watch this once at the end of high school. I HATE to say this of the guy that directed the amazing 'Last Picture Show' and excellent 'Paper Moon,' but it seems to me that one of this movie's biggest flaws is that it lacked direction; Bogdanovich seems to have been more concerned with writing, and I don't say that because the writing is strong, but because there's more detail in it, and the directing style seems to have been mostly non-direction ("here's your lines, and... action!").

Let's talk about the cast, given the different talents and the two once-almost-huge actors whose careers by this point were dwindling into obscurity:

Cary Elwes -- Could have been the #1 actor in Hollywood during the 1990s but opted not to be. Also, he seems to be an actor that needs direction, which is not a negative thing, but a fact, and explains his mediocre performance here. It's probably a shame for us that he wasn't more dedicated to acting, but there's a give-and-take with everything, and as he comes from a wealthy family anyway, so maybe keeping to the background of the limelight was the right choice for him personally.

Kirsten Dunst -- One of her first performances as an adult actor, which I once highly anticipated because when I was younger I was fascinated by her performances in 'Interview with a Vampire' and 'Jumanji,' but at this point 'Cat's Meow' is just one of many flounderings from her consistently floundered career as an adult actor. It's weird to see her name headlining a movie that other somewhat known people are in, but it'll never happen again at this point.

Eddie Izzard -- I enjoy Izzard, but there's no way he passes for Charlie Chaplin. He has roughly the same height, roughly the same hair color, and he's English. The similarities end there. The instinct that it took to cast him as Chaplin is the same instinct that allowed this movie to be produced at all, and it accounts for both the good intentions and complete pointlessness of this movie's existence.

Edward Herrmann -- I correctly remembered from the time I watched this in high school that he was the highlight of the movie. As is always the case, Herrmann delivers maximum results for whatever supporting part he is given.
June 5, 2012
I've always liked Cary Elwes and Kirsten Dunst, but this is horrible. I watched almost an hour of it and realized I was completely uninterested, and shut it off. I'm really glad I didn't force myself to sit through the entire thing, but the hour I did watch was torture enough.
April 28, 2012
Contains the same kind of intelligent class observation that was featured in Gosford Park.
April 25, 2012
This picture is very well done. Charlie Chaplin wanted for murder? Almost! Loved it! Must see!
April 19, 2012
kirsten dunst..interesting.
April 9, 2012
Bogdanovich and a decent cast brings this fun Hollywood mystery to life. I've always been intrigued by the story so this was fun to see.
Jeffrey M

Super Reviewer

February 18, 2012
An interesting account of Thomas Ince's death from the talnted Peter Bogdanovich, a consummate Hollywood insider/historian. It succeeds at being mostly entertaining and offering a decent view of the different motivations/interests involved, and is certainly one of Kirsten Dunst's best roles, she fits Marion Davies perfectly (the best film depiction of her). The one element that didn't quite work for me was Edward Hermann's betrayl of William Randolph Hearst, maybe I'm too skewed by Citizen Kane, but I imagine Heast to be a much more calculating character.

3/5 Stars
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