Drawn To “The Cat’s Meow”

The Marion Davies of the film, The Cat’s Meow (2002), mentions that her mother has advised her to marry not for romance but for “sympathy and friendship.” But actress Marion never ties the knot with anyone in Peter Bogdanovich‘s movie, being the mistress of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst as she is. No initiated marriage takes place in The Cat’s Meow; only decadence does. Set in 1924, the tale concerns a yacht party and a shooting scandal (the victim: film producer Tom Ince).

Written by Steve Peros, based on his play, the opus mixes the nostalgia of Bogdanovich’s earlier homage films with some of the seriousness of his The Last Picture Show. Mr. B directed astutely, and there are nice costumes and much effective acting. Kirsten Dunst does not quite portray a grown-up character, as she should: her Marion is still a child. Edward Herrmann as Hearst, however, is impeccable, while Jennifer Tilly is spunky and enjoyable as a gossip columnist. Perfectly grown-up—and interesting—is Claudia Harrison (as Tom Ince’s lover) and Cary Elwes is persuasive (as Ince himself). A minor but fairly rich product, this. It’s no Last Picture Show but it is still a watchable picture show.

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