‘Cat Person’ Director Doesn’t See Netflix’s ‘Fair Play’ as Competition: ‘We’re Overdue to Have These Movies’

“There’s this desire to put so much pressure on the minority storyteller to represent a thing for everybody,” Susanna Fogel tells TheWrap

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"Cat Person" director Susanna Fogel (Credit: TheWrap)

Cat Person,” the latest film from director Susanna Fogel, tells the story of a young woman (“CODA” breakout Emilia Jones) who engages in a relationship with an older man (Nicholas Braun) that might be dangerous. It’s story of the sticky dynamics between men and women in relationships is drawing commonalities to Netflix’s recent feature, Chloe Domont’s “Fair Play.”

But Fogel isn’t worried about the comparisons that risk overshadowing her film. In fact, she welcomes the connection as an opportunity to have a long overdue conversation about marginalized storytellers.

“We’re overdue to have these stories,” she told TheWrap. “We’re overdue to have many of them.”

As the director explained, there are several films about male/female power dynamics helmed by male directors or stories centered on men.

“No one movie is judged for having to speak for all men,” she said. “There’s this desire to put so much pressure on the minority storyteller to represent a thing for everybody.” It’s an issue, she said, that filmmakers still have not grappled with, the need to make sure one’s movie pleases all audiences. Discussing her 2018 feature, “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” Fogel explained how male critics took issue with the female heroine driving a car poorly.

“They’re like, ‘Well, this is bad for women because this is saying women are bad drivers,’” she said. “If women can’t sometimes act stupid, even if they’re smart, then what is the future of women in comedy? Do we always have to be ‘Atomic Blonde’ now because male executives think that’s feminism?

“Who’s asking for the representation and whether they actually even know what that really means in terms of empowering women?”

Fogel said that adapting “Cat Person,” based on the viral short story by Kristen Roupenian, was a challenge. For starters, she had to convince screenwriter Michelle Ashford that she was the right director for the job.

Fogel, having come off two comedies (working on “Booksmart” and “The Spy Who Dumped Me”), feared no one would buy her as a director of thrillers. “I had a lot to prove,” she said. But once Fogel and Ashford started working, the pair realized now was the time to have a conversation about the murky waters of consent and relationships.

“It’s a polarizing topic. It’s a polarizing movie. It was a polarizing story. I don’t know why, except to say that people clearly have a lot of unresolved opinions and frustrations with this topic,” she said. “And they can’t figure out a way through that except to try to push for one truth, which is not what these relationships are like in real life.”

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