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The Cat's Meow

The Cat's Meow

The Cat's Meow is a fine return to form for director Peter Bogdanovich whose last film was 1993's The Thing Called Love.  He's been active as a shrink on The Soprano's, but he uses a rich sense of history to film Steven Peros' play with wit and lavish charm.

His new film, which plays like a mystery, may be too glib and detached for some, as Bogdanovich centers The Cat's Meow on a weekend cruise in 1924 hosted by media giant William Randolph Hearst (Edward Hermann).

Aboard Hearst's yacht are guests like those in Robert Altman's classy and clever Gosford Park.  There is the great silent film actor Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Lizzard - Shadow of the Vampire) and film pioneer Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes - The Princess Bride).  Also Joanna Lumley of Absolutely Fabulous plays British author Elinor Glyn and Jennifer Tilly (Bound) is Louella Parsons, a gossip columnist.

The character driven whodunit realizes the mogul's passionate feelings regarding his young mistress, Marion Davies, a promising actress, done with unexpected insight into a supposed gold digger by Kirsten Dunst (Bring It On).  Davies and Chaplin are figured to be dallying in private and one can appreciate how The Cat's Meow whispers affectionately into the lives on a brief getaway.

The major revelation from Bogdanovich isn't working out the culprit of a shooting, as the victim's identity.  The nimble lensing from Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie) allows one to quietly encroach on characterizations which are deftly penetrating as in the eavesdropping atmosphere of Gosford Park.

In particular, Lizzard is good as the very serious self-absorbed star, and Hermann contrasts Chaplin with generosity into a sensitive megalomaniac.  And Tilly is convincing as a bracing wit.  As Bogdanovich evokes old Hollywood, "just off the coast of Planet Earth," the starlet in the luminous, affecting Dunst is a key figure in how a murder on a mogul's yacht nearly 80 years ago resonates into an often secret, speculative tinsel town.

The Cat's Meow

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