March 8, 2018
Cat Person, the Movie
by Michael Barron
It’s perhaps 99.9% of all novelists’ dream to have their work made into a film. The percentage may be smaller for short story writers, if only because it’s a rarer achievement to have a short story adapted for screen. Unless, of course, your short story happened to go bonkers viral when it was published by the New Yorker.
Which is exactly what happened when Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat Person” was posted on the magazine’s website in December. According to Borys Kit from the Hollywood Reporter, the hot and hip production company A24 (Ladybird, Good Time, Ex Machina) has purchased exclusive rights to the story’s script adaptation titled… are you ready… Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. Whether that minatory triplet of a title makes it beyond the script is anyone’s guess, as is the logline, film lingo for the elevator pitch, of the proposed plot. All we know is that A24 are calling it a “horror screenplay.”
If you need a summary of what Cat Person is about, you may be sleeping under a rock, or you may, like me, be taking a much-needed social media break. Assuming the latter, in short: a college student working behind a theater concession stand ends up making the acquaintance of an awkward patron. Though their communication is mainly through text messages, she decides to go on a date with him. Despite having a lackluster time, they sleep together, the sex is terrible (which she realizes midway), and she leaves after it’s over. She moves on with her life; he doesn’t, and grows creepy. It’s certainly an uneasy tale, but a horror story?
That’s debatable. The subtlety of the narration, driven by the curiosity and insights of its female protagonist, made Cat Person a compelling story. The context of her experience made it the New Yorker’s most-read short story in recent memory. Published during the height of the #MeToo movement, Cat Person became the fictional allegory of many women’s troubling experiences with men. But it remains to be seen whether the power of Roupenian’s story will carry over into a presumably ninety-minute psychological horror film. If the script moves along in development, we’ll soon find out.
Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.