The Cat's Meow

In November of 1924, a murder occurred on William Randolph Heart's private yacht. The murder was never solved, and to this day it holds a place in Hollywood lore because of some of the people on the yacht at the time of the killing. These people included Hearst himself, Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies, Elinor Glyn, Louella Parsons, Thomas Ince, and other people either somehow connected to Hearst or Hollywood. The Cat's Meow, adapted by Steven Peros (The Inside Man, Mutual Needs) from his own play, chronicles one version the fateful trip, made in celebration of Ince's birthday. To enjoy this fully, one must have more than a rudimentary working knowledge and interest in Hollywood history. Otherwise, The Cat's Meow is a film that is entertaining in spurts, and a little long.

Davies (Kirsten Dunst, crazy/beautiful, Get Over It), an up and coming actress, is the mistress of Hearst (Edward Herrman, Down, Double Take). There are also rumors of an affair between Davies and Chaplin (Eddie Izzard, Shadow of the Vampire, Mystery Men), rumors that are driving Hearst crazy with jealousy. Chaplin himself is embroiled in a scandal involving impregnating a sixteen-year-old girl. Showing up for the cruise only heightens Hearst's sense of paranoia. What he doesn't know, or refuses to believe, is that Davies has no love for Chaplin. Ince (Cary Elwes, Shadow of the Vampire, Cradle Will Rock) is trying to convince Hearst to enter into a business venture with him, and once he gets wind of the alleged affair between Davies and Chaplin, decides to use it to his advantage.

Director Peter Bogdanovich (In Your Shoes, Naked City: A Killer Christmas) knows a lot about Hollywood history, and his careful touch shows here. Unfortunately, unless one knows the context of the situation, it takes a long time for everything to begin clicking. Glyn (Joanna Lumley, Mirrorball, Maybe Baby) narrates, and it works because her character seems to want to take a step back from everything else and just observe. It's easy and amusing to observe, because the cast is fun to watch. There are many good actors in the cast, and the script gives them plenty of opportunity for witty banter. There's probably a statement somewhere about the idle rich, but it's not that important.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 52 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexuality, a scene of violence, and brief nudity.

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