Sundance Reviews: Cat Person, Justice, Fair Play, and the Angry Good Guy

cat person Writing a movie New Yorker short story that took over your Twitter feed in December 2017—begins with a now-familiar paraphrase of Margaret Atwood’s quote: “Men are afraid of being laughed at by women,” says the on-screen text. “Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

The crowd laughed nervously when the words came out cat personSundance premiere. It’s a strong synopsis of the film, which chronicles the doomed relationship between 20-year-old Margaux (Emilia Jones) and a very tall guy named Robert (Nicholas Brown). They meet at the cinema where she works behind the concession counter. They have a sexy, sexy texting relationship, followed by a less sparkling personal relationship, and then it all goes south.

Two young women sitting in the dark looking at a brightly lit phone screen.

Geraldine Viswanathan and Emilia Jones cat person.
Sundance Institute

The movie is good, until it isn’t; Director Susanna Fogel deftly pushes Margot’s inner narrative into a visual medium by adding secondary characters (like Tamara’s best friend, played by the always wonderful Geraldine Viswanathan), cleverly deploying dream sequences, and rendering Margot’s volatile experience with visceral precision. But there is a third act covered that destroys the ambiguity of the original story. Long story short, we have a lot of questions, the way you would have done at the end of such a relationship. But the movie tries to tie up loose ends, and the result is insane.

I still mostly enjoyed it. And the Atwood rehash kept lingering in the back of my mind, as I began to turn off other films I had just seen at Sundance that could have claimed it as well. There’s a certain kind of “good guy” who storms into a blazing rage when his ego gets bruised — when he suspects, in other words, that women are laughing at him — and makes it obvious onscreen in a risk-averse Hollywood-driven guy that didn’t always seem possible. This Sundance proves that it is.

in cat personMargot, for example, finds herself despondent at not confirming her aversion to having sex with Robert, telling herself it’s easier to move on. He is older than her, and she worries all the time about putting herself in danger. But in his bedroom, she’s no longer afraid that Robert, still mostly a stranger, is some kind of deranged serial killer luring her into a trap. She’s just worried about how he’ll react if he’s offended – and does something she’ll really regret because of it.

Two people in work uniforms are standing close to each other.  The woman looks at the man.

Alden Ehrenreich and Phoebe Dynevor in fair play.
Sundance Institute

Margot’s feeling is well connected fair playanother of the festival’s best-selling films, a relationship drama inspired by, if not actually omitting, the outlines of an old-school eroticism. (Netflix picked up the movie for a cool $20 million, so you’ll be able to catch it soon.) This time the couple at its center, Emily and Luke (Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich), are finance superstars who must hide their relationship at work. But when she gets promoted on him, things go downhill.

fair play is a biting and captivating movie, but mostly it’s the kind of movie that makes you feel bad with confession – or, anyway, if you’ve made yourself small to avoid the wrath of an insecure man. Luke seems to be a supportive best friend until he feels like others are laughing at him, that the life he was so firmly convinced he deserved to lead is about to unravel, and that Emily who adores him might be looking at him through a different lens.

What comes in sharp relief fair play – and in cat person, for that matter — is that for these guys, the kind who pride themselves on being “good guys,” the women they’re dating aren’t the problem. These women are accommodating and supportive far beyond their comfort zone. that these men think they deserve something (a woman, a job, a very special kind of respect) just because they exist; When they get a whiff of the opposite, they are drawn into verbal and physical violence.

You may never have encountered this; You may not have experienced it yourself before. But I assure you, someone you like has it. I know I have. What both films can do, and what would hardly be done in any other medium, is place the viewer in the mental space of women who find themselves trembling or even worried that their reasonable confidence and sense of self-worth will threaten a man, and that there will be consequences.

Crucially, both films are less about individual characters than the world around them. It’s a world that nurtures guys like Luke and Robert, makes them promises it can’t keep, and then gives them tacit license to get going when they don’t get what they want. This is why they feel a piece with you justicea Doug Lyman documentary about the allegations against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and what the women who accused him endured as they brought their story to the public eye.

justice It mostly centers on Deborah Ramirez, who claims she was grotesquely harassed by Kavanaugh when she was a student at Yale University. Ramirez’s story And it has been saidBut for the movie, she revisited the story and talked about the ramifications of the accusations. Cut with Christine Blasey Ford’s congressional testimony and Kavanaugh’s pre-confirmation hearings, this is a pretty brutal movie to watch.

Photo of Brett Kavanaugh holding a document.

The documentary justicefrom director Doug Liman, focuses on allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.
Sundance Institute

But what stands out in concert with movies like cat person And fair play It’s the violence — which, on screen, reads inexplicably almost explosive — with which Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. His anger. His inability to display the quiet humility you would expect from someone in the nation’s highest court. The little lies he tells for no reason, which the film establishes with journalistic rigor. His sore, his anger turned red in the face.

It’s like watching Luke or Robert blow up at Emily or Margot, in a way that doesn’t fit with whatever they’re blowing up about, because there’s a lot more going on here than anger at perceived abuse. It is the rage of someone who has been passed over, the mounting, senseless panic of a child whose toy has been snatched away. And on screen, you can watch it, and you see how ugly and irrational it is. You can’t walk out of one of these movies feeling relaxed and comfortable. It’s a testament to the broken world we live in, and how far we have to go so far.

Fair Play, Kat PearsonAnd justice Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. cat person It will be distributed by Netflix; fair play And justice Currently awaiting distribution.

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