Cat Person Review: A Film Analysis of Love and Ambiguity

Cat Person Review:

In 2017, Kristen Roupenian’s short story “Cat Person” took the internet by storm, capturing the unsettling nuances of modern dating and courtship. This unassuming tale of a college student’s encounter with an older man in the Me Too era sparked a conversation that still echoes today. Fast forward to 2023, and “Cat Person” has undergone a transformation, transitioning from a viral short story into a feature film. But does this adaptation capture the essence of the original story, and does it deserve its new thriller genre?

Cat Person Review: The Viral Phenomenon

The original “Cat Person” story was remarkable in its own right, daring to dissect the messy reality of dating, especially in the context of power dynamics. Written from the perspective of Margot, a university sophomore who works at a movie theater, it delved into the often ambiguous world of online and offline dating. Her initial attraction to Robert, a somewhat awkward older man, set the stage for a narrative that confronted the blurred lines of desire, consent, and societal expectations. The story thrived on its ability to capture the discomfort and ambiguity that can accompany ill-advised relationships.

Cat Person: The Film

Fast forward to today, and “Cat Person” has been adapted into a feature film. Directed by Susanna Fogel, co-writer of “Booksmart,” and penned by Michelle Ashford, creator of “Masters of Sex,” the film extends the original story, adding new characters and expanding on the plot. While the movie closely follows the short story, it inevitably introduces its share of additions to fill its extended runtime.

One notable addition is a feminist roommate and an anthropology professor who provide additional commentary on Margot’s actions. These characters serve as sounding boards for her doubts and insecurities, adding depth to the narrative but occasionally over-explaining the story’s themes.

The Thriller Genre Twist

What makes the film adaptation of “Cat Person” truly distinctive is its genre. It has been transformed into a thriller, a surprising and intriguing choice given the story’s roots in contemporary romance. The decision to pivot into thriller territory is likely influenced by the recent success of movies like “Promising Young Woman” and “Fresh,” which tackle the complexities of gender dynamics within relationships. The film adaptation takes the inherent suspense of modern dating to a new level, emphasizing the fear and uncertainty that often lurk beneath the surface.

Margot’s growing fear and anxiety are evident as she navigates her relationship with Robert. What makes this adaptation so interesting is its portrayal of her internal monologue, often depicted through imaginative and unsettling sequences. These sequences provide a unique insight into Margot’s inner turmoil and her struggle to make sense of the situation she finds herself in.

The Performances and Chemistry

The success of any adaptation hinges on the performances of its actors. In this case, Emilia Jones, who plays Margot, and Nicholas Braun, who portrays Robert, bring their characters to life in an authentic and captivating manner. Their chemistry, or rather lack thereof, is a standout aspect of the film. Both actors effectively convey the awkwardness and unease that permeate their characters’ interactions, creating a palpable sense of discomfort.

However, one point of contention arises in Nicholas Braun’s casting. Some viewers argue that he is a miscast based on his appearance and the specific type of awkwardness he embodies. Nonetheless, the film showcases Braun’s ability to infuse Robert with a hint of menace that distinguishes the character from his role in “Succession.”

The Tension and Ambiguity

One of the defining aspects of “Cat Person” was its refusal to cast either protagonist as a villain. The film adaptation maintains this ambiguity, challenging viewers to grapple with the complexities of the characters’ actions and motivations. However, it occasionally stumbles by overexplaining and telegraphing its ideas when subtlety could have spoken volumes. Nevertheless, the film does excel in capturing the discomfort, ambivalence, and misguided quest for affirmation that often accompany ill-advised relationships.

The Climax and Aftermath

The film’s climax is a point of division among audiences. Without giving away too many spoilers, it takes the story into darker territory, exploring the different ways Margot and Robert experience the situation. It touches upon the changing dynamics in relationships, as well as the evolving cultural conversation around consent and power. The ending reinforces the idea that relationships, especially in the digital age, are fraught with uncertainty and the potential for miscommunication.

A Reflection of Modern Dating

“Cat Person,” both the short story and its film adaptation, stands as a reflection of the complexities of modern dating. It portrays the fears, anxieties, and expectations that accompany online interactions and real-world encounters. It delves into the power imbalances and insecurities that can define relationships, reminding us that dating is not a straightforward path but a convoluted journey filled with unexpected twists.

The Verdict

The adaptation of “Cat Person” into a thriller genre may be a surprising departure from the source material’s roots in contemporary romance. However, it succeeds in infusing the narrative with tension and suspense, elevating the discomfort and unease experienced by the characters. While not without its flaws, the film captures the essence of the original story and extends its examination of the complexities of modern courtship.

In conclusion, “Cat Person,” the film, provides a thought-provoking exploration of the intricacies of dating and the ambiguities that surround it. It challenges us to reconsider the dynamics of power and consent in relationships, and it serves as a reminder that the pursuit of love and desire is often fraught with uncertainty. Whether you were a fan of the original short story or are approaching the film adaptation with fresh eyes, it’s an engaging and relevant cinematic experience that will leave you pondering the intricacies of modern romance.


The journey from a viral short story to a thought-provoking thriller has turned “Cat Person” into a significant conversation piece in the realm of modern dating and relationships. As it premieres at Sundance, it prompts us to reflect on the adaptation process and the decision to reimagine a viral internet phenomenon. The film’s exploration of power dynamics, ambiguity, and fear in dating adds a compelling layer to the original story’s themes.

With its stellar performances, creative storytelling, and daring genre twist, “Cat Person” will likely continue to be a talking point in the ongoing conversation about the complexities of modern courtship. As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of relationships, “Cat Person” serves as a poignant reminder that the path to love and connection is far from straightforward and that the fears and uncertainties associated with dating are both universal and uniquely personal.

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