The Cat’s Meow (2001) — Don’t do this Dunst

“If you were starving and you had no food, would you eat your shoe?”

DnaError’s rating: It isn’t.

DnaError’s review: The most infuriating movies are the “good concept gone bad” ones. You know the type, great idea on paper that blows up when someone tries to direct it. The Cat’s Meow begins with a ripe idea and then spends the next 90 minutes letting it rot.

The concept: dramatize the mysterious-yet-true death aboard William H. Hearst’s yacht in 1924. It all has the right ingredients for a snippy, Agatha Christie-style yarn: extreme characters with loose morals, isolated location, period costumes, a scandalous death, and obscene amounts of money.

However, this movie gets off on a limp start and says there with bored narration and over-used talking heads. The movie is a play adaptation and has more then enough talkiness to vouch for it. Even worse, the production values are shoddy, and the costumes straight from Party City (“Say, need a flapper? Here yah go!”). For a murder mystery, it takes its own sweet time getting to the actual murder and/or mystery.

The only reason this video stinker was even released from the vaults was due to Kristin Dunst’s recent fame. I never liked Dunst, she delivers her lines with all the conviction of an overly eager six-year-old. But here, she’s even worse as Hearst’s ninny-headed mistress. Mind you, her awfulness is overshadowed by Hearst’s, who is played like a whimpering puppy and voyeurs rather then the powerful and creepy man he was. Only Eddie Izzard rises above the made-for-TV milieu with a workmanship performance of Charlie Chaplin (sans mustache).

The Cat’s Meow is worse than disappointing — it’s boring. It takes what could be a intoxicating blend of wit, jazz, and murder and lets out a poot. The cat’s out of the bag, this one to miss.

Didja notice?

  • Neato art deco features. Dig the recessed lighting in the hallway.
  • When he looks up Ince’s address, Hearst’s address book shows two-letter state abbreviations (CA). These did not come into use until some fifty years later.
  • The movie is set in 1924. One of the characters mentions The Lady of the Harem which wasn’t released until 1926.

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