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Luke Cage looks at Brad Anderson's script WHEN THE CAT'S AWAY

Hey folks, Harry here with our hero for hire, Luke Cage... who decided to be a girly man and read WHEN THE CAT'S AWAY... What possessed this badass mutha to read this.. I don't know, perhaps he enjoyed NEXT STOP WONDERLAND like me. Hmmm...

Reasonable rates, satisfaction guaranteed… Luke Cage, Hero For Hire is here to help you. Hey Harry, read your article on Miramax's ShoWest promos, so I thought I'd share with you my take on a Miramax film slated for 2001 release, Brad Anderson's WHEN THE CAT'S AWAY.

While fighting evil in New York City, I heard scuttlebutt about Brad Anderson (most famous for Next Stop Wonderland) filming his next movie on location in beautiful Little Italy. So I used my superhard skin and amazing strength to score a copy of the script, and now I pass on my review. To be clear, this is the shooting draft, dated February 4th, and this is the script being sent to prospective cast members. But shooting will start in June, so changes are still possible.

The film, to be directed by Anderson and co-written by him and two of his buds (Lyn Vaus, who we saw as Virginia in "Man of the Century" and Cara Buono from "Happy Accidents") Heather Graham is the only person confirmed in the cast, and she'll almost certainly be the main character, Chloe. Our heroine is an interior designer, who's recently broken up with her longtime banker boyfriend. They had a Plan: Chloe would design beautiful buildings, the boyfriend would finance them, and Michael, a gay real estate broker and Chloe's best friend, would sell them. Now that she's left her boyfriend though, the Plan is out the window. Her only companion is her cat, Hamlet, a constant companion and (as the movie keeps hinting) her substitute for a romantic relationship.

So Chloe moves to an apartment in Little Italy and starts working for Pauline, an interior designer who's renovating a old butcher's shop into a ultra-modern club called "Meat." Feeling worn out, she takes a vacation and leaves her cat with her neighbor Amelia, an eighty-year old Italian widow who already has a dozen cats in cute identical sweaters. What do you think happens? (Hint: read the title again.) Chloe heads into Little Italy, looking for her cat, but in the process, she's going to meet folks very different from herself, and be changed by the experience.

Let's start with the good points of the script. First of all, like Next Stop Wonderland, the ending isn't obvious. With most romantic films, you have a leading character, the object of his/her desires, and of course they're going to hook up. This script doesn't make it that easy. Chloe meets a few men as she searches for her cat, and she can choose which to go out with, or to stay alone if she wishes. Another good point is the strong female support: Chloe's boss Pauline and their client, Margot, are fleshed out characters. They're both insecure, like Chloe herself. Pauline covers for it by being overbearing and aggressive, and Margot just acquiesces and stays quiet. Through Chloe, they start to find their footing in the world. Lastly, the script explores a little (pizza) slice of life in Little Italy. Lots of movies use Italian neighborhoods just as a backdrop for Mafia stories or poverty dramas, and this seems to be the first film since Moonstruck (Cher and Nicolas Cage waaaay back when) to explore the lighter side: friendly folk, a few oddballs, and a real sense of community and mutual support. I especially like the "Sons of San Garibaldi Social Club," a poker-playing bunch in the back of a video store that only rents films by Audy Murphy, Sinatra and Brando.

I'm sorry to say, though, that the weak points of the script are more numerous and overpowering. All the men in this movie are stupid stereotypes. Michael is every gay extreme: flighty, overly emotional, and jumping from man to man. He should have been a three dimensional character, but he is absolutely unbelievable as Chloe's best friend. Conversely, Enzo, a friendly half-wit local guy who helps in the cat search should have been the comic relief; instead the script forces him to be an inscrutable wise man who supposedly opens Chloe's eyes to the beauty of the neighborhood. That discovery, IMO, should be Chloe's alone, considering that it's one of the main points of the script. The rest of the male characters are stupid paper-thin plot devices, not even worth mentioning.

Additionally, there's too many old women in this script, each one a poor copy of the trademarked old Italian woman cliché. There's a totally useless side story about Lydia, an old woman who used to be a singer but lost her nerve. Amelia, the old woman who lost Chloe's cat, could have been interesting with her side story about a cheating husband and how she's hid behind her cats for decades in lieu of a real relationship. Her story and development could have been a parallel to Chloe's, but instead she's portrayed as a doddering, bitter woman.

But the script's biggest failure is a general… lack of romance. Heather Graham has serious work cut out for her in this role. Chloe alternates between monkish solitude while pining for her cat or her man (as I said before, the notion of a cat being a relationship substitute comes up often in this script) and just throwing herself at any man in range. She gets rejected, she rejects other men, and the whole thing is just a senseless whirlwind without any real purpose or destination. By the end of the script, relationships have become irrelevant to Chloe in the wake of the personal changes brought on by the search for her cat, which makes the eventual romantic ending seems so tacked on. I'm sorry Brad, really, but your script is only funny in patches, and not romantic in the slightest.

But there is hope… After all, shooting doesn't even begin until June. There's still time to revise. The key people in this script should be Chloe, Pauline, Amelia and Margot, and how one person's search for her cat becomes a pathway to a little positive growth for all four women, instead of this muddle of romance. Use Little Italy more, since Chloe's absorption into the local culture is an important subplot. Lose Enzo completely, because he's not worth the one running joke the script milks from him (an annoying Tarzan yell, never mind why) and let's see the neighborhood through the eyes of someone who's just beginning to look around. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Also, don't waste Little Italy as a location. Immerse Chloe in the neighborhood, let her explore more, and the film will be worth shooting on location.

So far, Brad Anderson's subverted the normal "chick flick" formula in his previous films. He's shown that just because a film is about romance, it doesn't have to be saccharine and trite. And he's obviously trying to do it again in WHEN THE CAT'S AWAY. But he's not there yet. Good characters and stories are buried under non-essential kissy-face and stunted development, and I think they can be unearthed and cleaned up. Much luck to you, Brad.

And if any of you out there have a problem, I remain… Luke Cage, Hero For Hire.

Readers Talkback
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  • March 15, 2000, 11:09 p.m. CST

    Luke...Uncle Owen is looking for YOU !

    by Syd Mead

    Sorry, couldn't help myself...--Syd.

  • March 15, 2000, 11:18 p.m. CST

    Heather Graham-y

    by Syd Mead

    Watching Bowfinger I was getting that Heather Graham was playing herself. Shallow talent wrapped in some tight buns ? Hmmmmmm...looks lke it. --Syd.

  • March 16, 2000, 2:04 a.m. CST

    How convenient.....!!!!

    by camille

    The title of this movie could'nt be more appropriate ! I'm french,and like two years ago,we french,had a small independant movie called "Chacun cherche son chat"-"Everyone seeks his cat". The plot of that movie was a young woman called chloe who let her cat at her eightie'something neighbors while she go on holyday. Of course the cat "run away" and chloe will discover her neighborhood and all the wonderfull people in it,while searching her cat...... SO WHEN THE CAT IS AWAY....YOU KNOW THE REST.I SINCERELY HOPE MR ANDERSON WILL RECOGNIZE THAT HE SAW THIS MOVIE !!

  • March 16, 2000, 2:09 a.m. CST

    Calm down Camille

    by Lethal Waffle

    Camille,... you are so right.. but you forget just one little detail : Miramax bought thr rights of "Chacun cherche son chat"... and this movie ("When the Cat is away") is simply its remake... so coincidence, I think not (and don't worry as far as American remakes go, it can't be better than the French version... only exception "True Lies" is way much better than the stupid "La Totale !")

  • March 16, 2000, 4:52 a.m. CST

    Let's chat

    by JackRock

    Well, I've very mixed feelings about the prospect of this movie. I LOVED the original - witty, touching, charming in that uniquely French way. But there is potential for a different but equally good film. And who knows - it could be Heather Graham's breakout performance in a leading role.

  • March 16, 2000, 5:55 a.m. CST

    Why remake this?

    by las7891

    When the cat's away was an adorable little french film released a couple years ago. Heartfelt, honest, subtle. This remake with Heather Grahm sounds like a fucking disaster in the making. Anyone heard of 3 men and a baby?

  • March 16, 2000, 7:50 a.m. CST

    Harry, you got some nerve...

    by Hero For Hire

    ...Saying that I'm wussing out. I'm just scouting around for the best movie to see with my bitches. Remember, if you ever get to the projects, you just might need a hero.

  • March 16, 2000, 8 a.m. CST

    Anderson: Listen to this guy!

    by Reverend Dave

    I've actually seen the script to this film as well. I wasn't going to write about it, because I'm not that good an author, but Hero For Hire really pegged this movie's high points and low points. As the script is now, I wouldn't go see it. It's not a formula romance movie, but the script isn't particularly great either. Brad Anderson, this guy knows what he's talking about and you would do good to consider some major changes. Bye bye...

  • March 16, 2000, 2:02 p.m. CST

    Frech--->English remakes suck a$$!!!

    by bigdaddymuffla

    WOW! Another crappy american remake of a good french film? Why? Haven't people learned? "Three Men and a Baby" and its sequal were ripped off from the french "three men and a baby carriage", and they sucked. The wretched "Roxanne" and the new, equally bad looking "Whatever it takes" are rips on the French "Cyrano de Bergiac". "When the cat's away" was a wonderful french film... I just don't see why americans feel the need to ruin it.

  • March 16, 2000, 5:01 p.m. CST

    Regarding French to English movies...

    by All Thumbs

    I have to say "Roxanne" had potential. The 20 better insults scene is one of my favorite motion picture moments (ok, so it's longer than a moment, who cares?). "Laugh and the world laughs with you. Sneeze...and it's GOODBYE SEATTLE!" Steve Martin was wonderful in that movie, if only they had gotten someone who wasn't so Darryl Hannah-ish. Oh wait, that WAS Darryl Hannah! No wonder...

  • March 16, 2000, 8:42 p.m. CST

    On Cherche Pour le Chat or whatever it's called...

    by iolokus

    i saw this movie a year or two ago and thought it was extremely well done. transposition into an american film, from paris to new york, might be achievable, but with A BETTER ACTRESS. in the french version, chloe is a brunette-- a wispy, just-barely-pretty makeup artist who's having so much trouble finding real love that the only source of attention she gets is from a semi-retarded neighbor (i think his name was gerard). heather gramm is really wrong for this part. even if she could pretend she couldn't find the affections of multiple people just by wearing something tight and batting her eyes, she probably wouldn't know how to fake the emotions convincingly enough on the screen. i hope they keep the soundtrack, however, which was a great mix of 30's-90's well written, non-shitty american "love songs". peace, and keep to the arthouse, ~iolokus

  • March 17, 2000, 8:48 a.m. CST


    by METHOS

    The original "When the Cat's Away" by Cedric Klapisch was a great breath of fresh air a few summers ago.I normally don't like the idea of remakes, but that was the first thing I thought of after seeing it. The story is so simple and subtle. What could be an easier McGuffin then searching the streets for a missing cat. I think Brad Anderson is a good choice to tackle this, but Heather Graham is entirely wrong for this role.I think it's great that she finally found some measure of success after all these years. It's just a shame that her range has not developed in the same way.Even Jennifer Love Hewitt would be a better choice, and could bring more to this than Heather Graham. Why change the name of the cat from Gris-gris to Hamlet? Hey MORIARTY, enlighten us as to why Miramax has the remake rights to "When the Cat's Away" even though I think it was distributed by Sony Pictures Classics? And where the hell is a DVD or LD of it? I really don't want to pick up a VCD import. Help?