Directed by: #DannyLane
Written by: #DannyLane
Given that human contact is really out of style at the moment, isolation and loneliness are struggles we are all facing. But it’s easy to forget that millions of people already faced these problems long before Corona took over the world. Peach, the eponymous lead of Crazy Cat Lady, is lonely in a lively world. And her journey to find her place is a gripping, if sometimes gloomy one.
We are introduced to Peach (Clare Gillies) bailing out of a terrible date somewhere in New York City. Living alone, with only her cat Tiger for company, she fills her ethereal, solitary existence with a unique wish to be a cat. And seeing how actually being a cat isn’t an option, the dream of fame via her cat-themed one-woman show fills in nicely. She has few friends. She floats through the world at her own pace. And she avoids human interaction in favour of retreating to the safety of her apartment. But when her mother’s intervention threatens to open her secluded world, Peach must make a decision of whether to embrace outsiders or slink back into isolation.
Many viewers will have their guard up against Crazy Cat Lady from the beginning. The classic indie tropes are all present. Filmed in black & white? Check. Sombre, depressing tone? Check. ‘Deep’ and ‘reflective’ voice overs? Check. A Random interview with a character spliced clumsily into a scene, despite no suggestion that we are watching a documentary? Check, check, check. It all feels very self-important and intentionally difficult to access in order to fabricate a sense of prestige. The director Danny Lane’s choices here are interesting – because the film is worth persevering with and all these techniques are presumably intentional to add layers of character to Peach – given that she herself is inaccessible. But sometimes the risk is not worth the payoff – and here the choices feel muddled and lesser compared to other films that embrace these methods more naturally.
Thematically the film is strong. Peach’s journey out from her self-imposed bubble towards embracing those around her is paced brilliantly. Her self-acceptance feels natural and there is little question that she is the better for it – without giving up the quirks that make her who she is.
The deconstruction of the ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ notion itself is also intriguing. Peach fills all the criteria for the classic sexist stereotype. She loves cats – that’s for sure. She lives alone and is eternally single. And she’s a little crazy at times. But through help from her therapy group led by Miriam (Parvati), she embraces her femininity and learns to accept herself. She is still a cat lady, but she claims her own identity - and the world which she has ignored for so long has to learn to accept her, rather than the other way around.
Special mention should be given to Claire Gillies’ performance as Peach. She manages to come across as bizarre and aloof – even intimidating – when needed, whilst also allowing for a vulnerable and sympathetic side. Audiences never grow tired of spending time with Peach, which is essential in the early sections of the film which can be awkward for some viewers. An incredibly physical role – you can tell that she really embraced and embodied the character.
Crazy Cat Lady is a slow-burner that leads to a satisfying and thoughtful payoff. The themes are strong, and viewers will be left pondering the message of the film for some time. However, some of the directorial choices are questionable, feeling out-of-place or inferior to similar films in the genre.