The Cat's Meow - movie review (April 14, 2002)
The Cat's Meow is the fictionalized account of the death of Hollywood mogul Thomas Ince in late 1924. The mystery of his death was never solved, perhaps because of the power of the people present at the time, including William Randolph Hearst. The movie tells of a voyage aboard Heart's yacht in celebration of Ince's birthday, attended by such Hollywood luminaries as Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin and then small-time gossip columnist Louella Parsons. Each attendee has his or her own agenda and plans for what the voyage will accomplish, but as the situation escalates, Thomas Ince is the one to suffer the consequences.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The script was wonderful and witty, and the characters very well drawn and excellently portrayed.
Kirsten Dunst is absolutely dead-on as Marion Davies, and she is as genuine when she is bubbly and happy as when she is grief-stricken and confused. It was apparent from her performance in "Interview with the Vampire" as the young vampire convert that she was not just going to be another cherubic-faced but talentless actress, and it's nice to see her blossom as an actress over the years.
Eddie Izzard is equally wonderful as Charlie Chaplin, as is Edward Herrmann as William Randolph Hearst, showing us a side of Hearst, whether real or imagined, that is as intriguing as all the myths that surrounded him. Cary Elwes is terrific as Thomas Ince, and Joanna Lumley (probably best known as Patsy from "Absolutely Fabulous") is a scene stealer as a famous British writer. Jennifer Tilly was interesting and funny as Louella Parsons, but I've never particularly liked her as an actress, so while her usual antics fit in to the story she was given to play, watching her was my least favorite part of the film.
The film is also wonderful to watch for all the costumes and outrageous hats that were common for the day, especially for Hollywood types.
While I sit through the credits anyway, I'd suggest others do the same for this film. Kirsten Dunst gives an excellent "torch song" performance of "After You've Gone", which runs over the end credits.
This film is a definite recommend for me. It opened this past Friday in Los Angeles and New York only, though it's expected to open wider. Well worth the effort to find it, though I saw it in a regular theatre complex that was playing two art house films in addition to regular Hollywood fare, so that was cool.
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