The Sundance premiere of Kat Pearson was a festival rave


Light spoilers for the movie “Cat Person” are in this article.

Park City, Utah – if there ever was one A movie meant to blow up a mass texting thread, it’s “Cat Person.”

“All I want to talk about is Kat Pearson,” a young director wrote into a massive Sundance Film Festival group chat after the movie’s premiere Saturday night, with a teary-eyed face emoji. “I have very strong opinions, hahaha,” wrote another.

It seems everyone at Sundance has a lot to say about the hotly anticipated adaptation The viral short story from The New Yorkerstarring Emilia Jones (“CODA”) and Nicholas Brown (Cousin Greg from “Succession”), is about a 20-year-old woman, Margot Relationship with an older man, Robert, and then goes on a bad date with him.

Kristen Roupinian’s story kicked off a thousand Twitter threads about consent and bad kissers (and ghosting, and is it okay to change your mind about having sex with someone halfway) when it came to light in December 2017, as the community began to grapple with the fallout from #MeToo. (The story was published just two months after initial investigative reporting by The New York Times and The New Yorker regarding Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assault.) Those threads on Twitter Five years later. The stories of their nightmarish dates seem to resonate as ever.

In a major departure from Roupignan’s slasher short story, though, the film version of “Kat Pearson” is an unmistakably dark comedy horror film about the hell of modern dating. Director Susanna Fogel (co-writer of the screenplay for 2019’s “Booksmart”) and writer Michelle Ashford (author of “Masters of Sex”) lean toward genre elements, often jumping Between reality and Margot’s violent visions of her being in constant danger, just by virtue of being a woman. Every walk home alone at night and every touch of the arm carries the potential for damage, as Heather MacIntosh’s score adds a heightened sense of dread.

The film also adds Isabella Rossellini as Margot’s professor, providing a biting commentary on the sexual dynamics of ants and bees, and a skeptical feminist friend (Geraldine Viswanatha from “Blockers”) who constantly points out that this relationship seems like bad news, only to have Margot ignore all her warnings.

“Michelle and I talk a lot about trying to bring out those inner fears with an outer sense of danger,” Vogel said in a post-show Q&A session. In a situation with someone they don’t know, they suddenly realize the magnitude of that person they just got in the car they met on Tinder a day ago and now they’re now driving on a highway at 80mph.”

The film’s biggest proponents seemed to be those who went into it blindly and weren’t thrown away by the film’s extreme and worse script. The third act, which plays on what happened after the agonizing end of Robinian’s story, when Robert criticizes Margot for the text after ghosting him. It’s not subtle, but it’s a great adaptation of what seemed to be unfilmable source material happening mostly over the script and in Margot’s head.

The audience responds to this third act with plenty of confusion, nervous laughter, and hands over their eyes — but it also gives Robert a chance to say what’s been going through his head and grills Margot about what he could have done wrong. The guy sitting next to me said he appreciated the addition, because he went through those kinds of feelings, from jumping to all kinds of conclusions after a woman he was dating inexplicably pulled out.

Central to the film, as is the story, is Robert’s truly terrible kisser, which Margot brushes off on her way to having sex with him on their first date, even as she grows increasingly out of it. “Trying to figure out how bad, really bad things kiss is so much fun for two actors,” Brown said in a short interview. “Was that weird enough? number? Let’s go weirder. “

As for the sex scene, director Fogel chose to place another out-of-body Margot in the room, providing comic commentary as the action unfolded. Despite the darkness of the material, Jones said, there were a lot of laughs, even halfway through.

Vogel said that although the film is Margot’s story, she felt Robert’s casting was the most defining. He needed to be cute and a little bit too big, so Margot feels a certain sense of unease. “Nick is kind of a magical creature in that he’s a nerdy on TV, but he’s also a heart in the world,” Fogel said. “It’s kind of the perfect combination because you have to believe that she’s going to care about him and she’s going to be able to project on him. Nick has this chameleon-like quality where you look at him in some light and say, ‘Oh, that’s a leading man,’ and other times he’s insecure or says something.” wrong and you can undo that attraction.”

Brown also felt associated with the embarrassment of the role. “Everybody was Robert in a way,” he said. “You try really hard, or do anything masculine that will make you more attractive, or dress a certain way to impress a woman. I think I was also awkward and uncomfortable and overly lustful, like, ‘Oh my God, I want this so bad,’ and then you ruin something.” Because it is not equal.”

Whatever anyone would think of the film and its success as an adaptation (it has yet to be sold for distribution), it seemed to have impressed audiences, who continued to talk about the gray areas of dating and the chaos of pairing up at house parties across Park City that night. Vogel said in a Q&A that the film was a necessary evolution from the female revenge thriller that emerged after Calculating Men in the late 2010s.

Fogel said, “We wanted to explore the paradox and the idea that consent is a continuum and people change their minds, and there should be room to talk about that in culture as well. Sometimes you might wish you weren’t somewhere, when you’ve done all the things that lead you to it.” The place. And what next? Was the other person supposed to know? There’s such pressure to be absolutely sure of what you want and to be able to articulate it, otherwise you lose your ability to escape from the situation.”

Comments were mixed. Justin Chang of The Los Angeles Times criticized its “tale-telling” that degenerates into “a bloody, fiery, and startlingly violent mayhem”, while variety He admired his “dangerous” and “bold” third act. Endeavor She called it “appropriately painful,” in a complimentary manner, and said “it will put your teeth on edge and lift the hairs on the back of your neck, just as it should.”

Roupinian said it was the second time she watched the movie and her stomach still hurt after watching it. “It made me think about how experiences that seem internal and invisible really aren’t,” she said. “They are all actually on the face of it minute by minute and yet it is still hard to talk about. … Not everyone is going through the same experience and it is shocking, amazing and scary.”

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