My base understanding of Cats before I went to go see the movie was comprised of two things:
- The movie is about cats.
- There’s a really good song called “Memory” in it.
That’s it. When I walked into the theater to see it with a group of friends, that was the extent of my knowledge about Cats.
Now, I know so much more.
And not much of it is good.
In case you don’t want to read any further than this because you just don’t want to have anything to do with Cats, let me leave you with the surface-level impressions.
For the first part of the movie, you might have no clue what is going on, especially if you had no idea that the term “Jellicle” is what the cat-creatures call themselves. There are only two good-ish parts in the whole film, and they are surrounded by what-the-actual-fuck moments. And lastly, while the movie is an incomprehensible piece of refuse, it is tremendously good for laughs.
For those of you morbid enough to want to stick with me, here is a brief synopsis of the “story.”
Side note: The word “story” is in quotes because, as you’ll soon see, the “story” of Cats is a nightmare of confusion, bafflement, and insanity.
Protagonist cat-creature Victoria is dumped by, I asuume, her human owner onto the street. Once there, she is introduced to the world of cats, except they’re not really cats. They call themselves Jellicle Cats, and I still have no idea if this means something.
The Jellicles basically act like dicks for most of the time, like a regular cat would, but they at least try to explain to Victoria what life is like for them. Apparently, Victoria got abandoned at a very special time. This particular night is a celebration for Jellicles because something called the Jellicle Choice is happening.
When they sang their songs about the Jellicle Choice, they weren’t especially clear about what it entailed. But from what I gathered eventually, the Jellicle Choice is made by this old lady Jellicle Cat. She picks one Jellicle from the group (thereby making the Jellicle Choice) to be reincarnated into a new life.
Yeah, I had no idea how that would work, but at this point in the film, I just decided to roll with it.
The majority of the movie is then consumed by Victoria being introduced to a bunch of different cats who all want to be the Jellicle Choice. And they all sing songs about it.
In between their songs, audiences are introduced to this mean Jellicle named Macavity. Macavity really really wants to be the Jellicle Choice, and he catnaps a bunch of Jellicles to try and eliminate them as possible choices for the old-lady cat. (Spoiler warning: His plan doesn’t work.)
In the end, Victoria convinces old-lady cat and the other Jellicles to make this other ostracized Jellicle the Choice. This ostracized Jellicle has the most beautiful voice, and she sings a song (the song) about the faded joy of her youth. Once all the Jellicles hear her song, the old-lady cat decides to indeed make Previously-Ostracized Jellicle the Jellicle Choice.
Side note: I have officially typed the word “Jellicle” more times than I’ve ever wanted to in my life.
The movie kind of ends once the Jellicle Choice is placed in a hot air balloon and sent into the sky to probably die a cold and lonely death.
No, I am not even kidding.
So clearly Cats has some story issues. It is painfully unclear what is going on at times. The plot is not cohesive, and the only structure it is given is by introducing Victoria to new Jellicles, which hardly makes for a good story.
When I left the theater, I actually Googled “what is story to Cats” and I read up on the history of the musical. Apparently, the whole thing was inspired by some T.S. Eliot poems, to which I have to say, “Ohhhhhh, now I see. Now I see why the whole thing feels plotless.”
For those of you not in the know, T.S. Eliot is a writer from the postmodernist era of literature. I actually really enjoy postmodernist literature and poetry. It makes for a delightfully intricate pattern of nonpatterns that relies more on inferences and paradoxes than straightforward narratives. But as you can probably guess from that last statement of mine, that’s not a good backbone for a movie.
See, postmodernism in literature is all about the unreliability of narrators and the impossibility of penning human nature into a strict narrative. Which is the opposite of a basic story.
In layman’s terms, postmodernism can make for terrible movies.
Cats also failed to grab my attention musically. (And it’s a goddamn musical!) The only songs I liked were “Memory” and “Beautiful Ghosts.” When those songs are sung, you actually feel yourself become mesmerized by the melody. You look into the eyes of the Jellicle singing and think to yourself, “Holy shit, you have understandable feelings.” But then the song ends and another Jelllicle starts singing some rubbish.
Now, I know a lot of people complained about the visual effects used for Cats. While they are disconcerting, they’re not that bad. Maybe I’m just used to bad graphics from my time with Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Only two things bothered me visually in the movie. One was the fact that some of the Jellicles wear fur coats.
I mean, they’re cats, they’re already sporting fur all over their bodies. There’s no reason for them to wear these extravagant fur coats.
Also…where did they get them?
The second thing that was a bit disconcerting about the visuals was how sexual they were. They’re doing some weird kind of ballet throughout the movie, but it feels highly sensualized. And the girl Jellicles have the faint outlines of boobs.
Cats is only meant for two kinds of people in this world. You are either a really big fan of the musical and want to see the film version of it OR you are going to see it with some chums in order to chuckle and chortle over how bad it is.
I rate Cats an I-can’t-believe-I-spent-money-actual-cash-to-see-this-movie-and-now-I-have-to-mentally-justify-this-to-myself-for-the-rest-of-my-life-or-else-I-might-just-pull-a-Jellicle-Choice.