With a huge cast, and a short project timeline, it’s a wonder that 'Cats' was able to screen as soon as it has.
Directed by Tom Hooper ('Les Miserables', 'The King’s Speech'), the cinematic adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage smash (and the poem by T. S Eliot) 'Cats' explores the world of Jellicle cats. The clowder is ruled by Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench), whose responsibility is to select one Jellicle cat to ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life. Throughout the production, the audience is introduced to the star Jellicle cats, who show off their musical talents in an effort to become the chosen one. It’s here that we see the star cast do what they do best.
The cast is nothing short of a spectacle, and although the film maintains the original score and script, it also leaves room for the individuality that each cast member is known for, while being covered in 'digital fur'. With the likes of Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots (highlighting her unique humour), Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger (and his womanising facade), James Cordon as Bustopher Jones (and his iconic accent and one-liners), and Taylor Swift as Bombalurina (with her superstar demeanor), 'Cats' lends itself to the uniqueness of the cast, and brings them together to create a whirlwind of character development throughout the story.
Of course, you can’t talk about the cast without noting the brilliance that is Judi Dench (Old Deuteronomy), Idris Elba (Macavity), and Ian McKellen (Gus The Theatre Cat) who didn’t disappoint with their showcase of incredible talent. Although not her film debut, Francesca Hayward (Victoria) took to the screen as if she’d been doing it her entire life, captivating the audience with her sweet voice and exceptional talent as a Principal ballerina (The Royal Ballet).
The score (Andrew Lloyd Webber) is beautifully recreated in the film, with the movie being almost entirely sung-through, aside from a handful of moments between songs allowing Rebel Wilson and James Cordon to execute their iconic (and often feline-focused) one-liners. However, the way the characters develop throughout the movie, and how the storyline flows seamlessly is a testament to both the music itself, but also the reimagining of the show by Tom Hooper. Without taking anything away from the iconic theatre production, Hooper has adapted it in such a way that makes it easy to follow, engaging, and humorous, ensuring that the audience feels as much a part of the Jellicle cats as the cast does.
The choreography was something to marvel at, with the cats moving so gracefully between and with one another. Of course, it helped that Hayward is a trained ballerina, which was evident throughout the film, however the way that, at one point, upwards of 20 cats could be performing so perfectly around one another was awe-inspiring.
It really was one-of-a-kind, and worth seeing for purely the talent and performance aspect. In addition, the way that the cast mirrored the actions and elements of feline characteristics throughout their performances was also extraordinary.
What added to the stunning performance was the cinematography, which also aided in the audience feeling as though they were spinning, bounding and performing alongside the Jellicle cats. Some angles almost felt hand-held, as we joined the conversation between Old Deuteronomy and Victoria, and danced alongside Jennyanydots and her crew of mice and cockroaches, before switching to a wide angle pan of the backstreets of London. Brilliantly executed, it took the film from ‘watching a film version of a theatre show’ to ‘being a part of a theatre show from the comfort of a cinema’.
Furthermore, the 'Cats' theatre production is particularly known for its continuous breaking of the fourth wall, as the Jellicle cats realise that there is a human audience watching them, and proceed to introduce them to the leading Jellicle cats. The film didn’t disappoint, with some implications of the breaking of the fourth wall throughout the film, before Judi Dench progressed to inform us about Jellicle cats directly through the fourth wall. Exquisitely done, Hooper again pays tribute to the original theatre production, without taking away from the cinematic experience of the film.
With the film commencing shooting last December (2018), and wrapping at the beginning of April (2019), it’s a wonder that the film was able to be released merely a year following its commencement, particularly with the added element of 'digital fur technology' in the post production. Unfortunately, the short project timeline was evident, as there were several glitches throughout, making it feel as though maybe post-production needed another couple of months to smooth out the wrinkles. Nothing took away from the quality of the performance, but it would have been nice for the production to mirror the talent featured in the film.
Aside from some evident glitches throughout, 'Cats' is a must for anyone who enjoyed the musical, or appreciated Tom Hooper’s other work. Don’t expect an exceptionally thrilling storyline, but do expect some darn good talent and a great cast along with it.