Susanna Fogel, director of the new film “Cat Person,” spoke with TheWrap editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman at the Sundance Film Festival about her adaptation of an intensely debated New Yorker short story that explores mixed signals, power dynamics, and the pitfalls of modern dating in a post-MeToo world.
Joined by her stars Nicholas Braun and Emilia Jones — the latter of whom is also at Sundance with the father-daughter drama “Fairyland” — Fogel discussed how in the five years following the rise of #MeToo there have been a wave of “female revenge” films like “Promising Young Woman” and “The Invisible Man,” focusing on women taking back control of their lives from emotionally and sexually abusive men. But with “Cat Person” she wanted to explore other ways our culture tackles murky issues like consent and power within relationships.
Jones plays Margot, a 20-year-old college student who begins dating an older man named Robert (Braun). Their relationship quickly escalates from texts to an awkward date that culminates in the worst night of sex imaginable for Margot.
“We’ve had so many more movies and books and…so much more public discourse about ideas of miscommunication between the sexes, and toxicity, and aggression and consent. It’s all kind of part of the cultural lexicon at this point,” she said at TheWrap’s Portrait and Video Studio at The Music Lodge. “So it was really interesting for me to engage in this movie because it felt like, ‘Okay, what’s next?’”
The original New Yorker story by Kristen Roupenian received some criticism for the way Margot derides Robert’s body in a way seen by detractors as fat-shaming, but was championed by other readers for encapsulating the sense of vulnerability young women feel when dating a man, particularly one that’s older. Jones is one of those fans.
“I think, when you’re young, you’re kind of along for the ride, you’re down to just have fun and see what happens,” Jones said. “And then you’re suddenly in a moment, in a situation where you’re in a car with a guy you don’t know, you don’t know, his friends, you don’t know where he lives, you don’t know anything about him. And I know a lot of people, a lot of my friends that have read this story said that they definitely related.”
Watch more of Sharon Waxman’s interview with the cast and director of “Cat Person” in the video above.