Pussy Galore! Two sides of my brain try to come to terms with seeing Tom Hooper’s Cats.

FILM BRAIN (FB): What the fuck did we just watch?

MUSICAL THEATRE BRAIN (MTB): Cats.

FB: Yeah, but… what the actual…

MTB: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats, you know the one that’s been around since 1981. We saw it when we were kids.

FB: I know but… that film was…

MTB: Yeah, I’ll admit, the film was A LOT.

FB: The story was terrible.

MTB: The musical has no real story, it never has. It started life as a song-cycle based on T. S. Eliot’s poems (more of a dance show with tunes) then they grafted on the idea of the cats competing to be chosen to go to, well, cat-heaven.

FB: They’re on the X-Factor competing to have the chance to… die?

MTB: Yes, it’s ritualised sacrifice, musical theatre style. Death in tap-shoes. Murder with jazz-hands. But I assume they have nine lives so it’s not too depressing.

FB: So all that stuff about Idris Elba stealing the cats…?

MTB: That’s all new. It’s a bit pantomime isn’t it?

FB: I still don’t get why you’re so calm about how fucking weird this is.

MTB: You’ve clearly forgotten Starlight Express. Is there anything you DID like about it?

FB: Definitely, the choreography is great. The show works best as a music video.

MTB: Or an episode of So You Think You Cat Dance?

FB: You’ve been sitting on that for a while, haven’t you?

MTB: Hosted by Cat Deeley obviously.

FB: Stop it. 

MTB: The new choreography is a bit controversial actually. The original show was choreographed by the legend that is Gillian Lynne (she has a theatre named after her now), but this film’s moves are choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler.

FB: I know that name.

MTB: He did a little show you may have heard of called Hamilton. Let’s be honest what’s more unlikely, a hit musical about cats (the creatures at the center of every good meme on the internet) or the politician who invented the US treasury?

FB: Fair point. So anyway I think the performances were actually really good once you got past the CGI. Those actors really committed to being cats, even if it does feel like they’ve gone back to their first year in drama school. I can’t imagine what it was like on set, having Tom Hooper tell you to spread your legs and rub your tale like it’s a dick! And poor Judi Dench is thinking “I’m a Dame of the British ****ing Empire!”

MTB: Her laid-back leg-spread move was one of the films highlights. That and all the weird sexy touching. No one had any personal space. Lots of characters “stroking fur”.

FB: And one of them gave the new girl cat a pearl necklace!

MTB: To clarify, it was a literal pearl necklace! Not the dirty kind.

FB: And that time Jason Derulo drenched them in white, creamy….

MTB: Milk. Just say milk. It was milk from a tap. While screaming “MILK!” to make sure you knew what it was.

Jason Derulo shouting “Milk”

FB: There was so much, legs-spread, genital-less action! I can’t get over how many crotch moments there were. Did the men tuck or did someone have CG out their junk to make it all U?

MTB: And the Oscar for Best Visual Effects goes to…

FB: I don’t really get why some cats wore clothes, and some didn’t. And one wore clothes that look like cat fur which reminded me of the skin-suit from Silence of the Lambs

MTB: Rebel Wilson is the Hannibal Lecter of Cats?

FB: We saw her do Guys & Dolls on stage, she murdered that show too.

MTB: I think it’s weird that people are struggling to process the cat/human uncanny valley. I had no problem with the costuming. Although it did give the impression that Idris Elba’s Macavity was actually walking around naked when he took his hat and coat off. 

Idris Elba at his slinky best

FB: I would like to state for the record that I am fine with a naked Idris Elba at all times. So is it in the stage show that Old Deuteronomy and Asparagus were old lovers? 

MTB: No, I think Ian McKellan and Judi Dench were just making things up as they went along.

FB: And Mr Mistoffelees and Victoria?

MTB: It definitely looked like they were hooking up at the end. Also, I’m pretty sure Munkustrap wants in on that as well. 

FB: I did walk out thinking a lot about cat sex.

MTB: So Cats made you a Furry?

FB: That’s the power of musical theatre.

FB: So, did you LIKE Cats?!

MTB: Hmmmmm….. “Like” would be a strong word. But this is Cats, and Tom Hooper brought it to the screen in a cinematic way. Most of the problems lie in the original show – there’s no plot, there’s no tension, it’s just a bunch of cats introducing themselves, then one of them belts out a sad song and wins.

FB: Again, it’s pretty much an episode of the X-Factor.

MTB: And that ruled TV screens for how many seasons?

FB: I take your point. So what we’re saying is, it should never have been made into a movie?

MTB: Probably, but seeing as the stage show has made billions of dollars world-wide, a film was inevitable.

FB: I feel bad for the young cast starring in such a massive flop.

MTB: If you walked past one of them on the street would you recognise them?

FB: … umm…

MTB: They’ll be fine.

FB: Why do people love the stage show again? The songs… well… they’re a bit rubbish. They’re terrible musical theatre songs, they don’t progress the plot at all. Is that Lloyd-Webber’s fault? Or T.S. Eliot’s fault?

MTB: I think there’s more than enough blame to go around, and at least they reframed Mr Mistoffeleess’ song to be a bit more plot-driven. But yes, what can I say – blame the 80s.

FB: We’re assuming Lloyd-Webber was off his tits on catnip, right. Closing thoughts?

FB:MTB: I’m glad I saw it. It’s about as good as a Cats movie was ever going to get. You?

FB: Paradoxically it’s not as bad as I wanted it to be. I wanted this to be the surreal, camp, stoner classic for the next generation of queer kids. I wanted hilarious sing-a-long screenings at midnight filled with avant-garde drag. I wanted Showgirls-with-fur. But it’s not even that. It’s a shame really.

MTB: So… two stars?

FB: Two stars.

MTB: I can’t believe we got to end without making a “pussy” joke.

By Chad Armstrong

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