The Cat's Meow Reviews
Odds are, you will either enjoy the movie from the get go or find it in some way intolerable and choose to watch something else.
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.
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.
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.
This film u's by no means amazing but I find it an interesting film & worth a watch an interesting little slice of Hollywood history.
All the actors where in pretty good form Kirsten Dunst was great as the Silent Actress Marion Davies & the actor playing Hearst done a great job.
This great mystery has never been solved & to this day no one knows how Thomas Ince actually died, interesting to see this director's opinion.