When composer Andrew Lloyd Webber first performed the score of his new musical Cats for the famous theater director Harold Prince, Prince was confused. He tried, as he reminded the Los Angeles Times, to discover the most profound themes of what he had just heard. “I … said, ‘Andrew, I don’t understand. Is this about English politics? [Are these cats Queen Victoria, Gladstone, and Disraeli?” He looked at me as if he had lost his mind, and after the break, Long told me: “Hal, these are just cats.” The musical has recently been adapted for director Tom Hooper’s big screen, and this lovely anecdote provides a basic mantra to watch: don’t overthink. Cats talk about cats.
It can be challenging to remember this while watching the Hooper movie because all the cats involved (and many of them) seem human who is hairy and naked at the same time. Thanks to advances in “digital fur technology,” the star cast has become a herd of giant beasts with human tails, hands, and feet, and whiskers on their strangely expressive faces. It is a different visual approach to everything I’ve seen in the cinema, a daring way to recreate the characters performed on stage by dancers with makeup and leotards. Accepting this vision of Lovecraft is the main entry barrier for the jelly ball, but if it can be done, there is much to enjoy in this unique and strange film event.
Cats are about cats, as Lloyd Webber pointed out decades ago, but also about the vertiginous joy of entering a world where the conventions of logic and storytelling matter much less than sound and movement. What you might ask, are Jellicle cats or the Jellicle Ball that everyone frequents? A charming, absurd language was taken from the poetry collection of T. S. Eliot, the Old Possum book of practical cats, which served as lyrical inspiration for the musical. For Hooper, Jellicle seems to describe a kind of manic madness: a Jellicle cat is the type of cat that tends to take exaggerated poses, dress up in fancy costumes and sing long songs about its own fabulously exciting personality.
The story of the film, as it is, is told through the eyes of Victoria (played by Francesca Hayward), a newcomer to the alleys of London where the film takes place. One by one, he encounters a series of colorful stray dogs eager to show up at the Jellicle Ball. There, the wise leader of cats, Old Deuteronomy (a wonderful Judi Dench), will choose one of them to go to the “Heaviside layer” (a real atmospheric phenomenon that here suggests a kind of reincarnation or d). From now on). That is the breadth of the plot, although Hooper and his co-writer Lee Hall reinforced Victoria’s character as a dancer in the original musical and added magical infamy from Macavity. (Idris Elba), a growing playboy who is eager to succeed on the ball.
The success of cats depends on musical numbers, which vary widely in terms of emotional weight and psychedelic style. One of the first, starring lazy comedian Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson), is bored as he struggles to live a burlesque comedy; It becomes more convincing when cockroach conga lines with human faces begin to walk around the house in an image taken from Naked Lunch. Leaving aside these unforgettable moments, during the first 45 minutes of Cats, I found myself struggling to adapt to the absolute madness of the images, which are not helped by an overly anxious montage that cuts Andy Blankenbuehler’s impressive choreography. Jason Derulo’s work as Rum Tum Tugger is an overactive disaster; After James Corden’s long and tedious run as Bustopher Jones, he was ready for a nap.
However, Hooper’s total assault on the senses finally exhausted me, and I came to find the sincere energy of the strangely enchanting theater project stranger. When Ian McKellen was introduced as the melancholic Gus the Theater Cat, I realized that he was emotionally involved in these strange creatures; by the time Skimbleshanks, the railroad cat (Steven McRae), danced on a CGI railroad, he was practically ready to cheer. Like the Lloyd Webber stage show, the film has a hypnotic effect that is difficult to explain, except to say that everything is so aggressive and severe that it cannot be driven away.
This feeling of human connection is helped by Hooper’s insistence that the actors sing live on the set, so that the best banger of the film, the interpretation of Jennifer Hudson’s “Memory,” really lands as one more performance. That as part of a soundtrack. It is a pity that this theatrical quality has not materialized in other elements of the film. Hooper avoided the simple planes that could have presented the dance of the ensemble, perhaps thinking that the effect would be too scenic. But cats don’t need to be more cinematic; the CGI transfers enough as is. Whether you believe the images are beautiful or nightmare, it is a movie that needs to be seen. At the very least, I can confirm that this is the most Jellicle experience I’ve had all year.