The decay of the Hollywood dream has perhaps never been portrayed as viscerally as it is in She’s Allergic to Cats. This defiantly weird and aesthetically discomforting flick is the debut feature from writer-director Michael Reich, whose own journey to fame includes work as a music video director for the likes of My Chemical Romance and Ryan Adams, as well as a gig body doubling for one of the Daft Punk robots (no joke).
Mike Pinkney (played by an actor also named Mike Pinkney) came to Hollywood to make movies. The best he’s been able to do, however, is create stoner video art for an audience of no one in his rat-infested apartment, while holding down a meaningless dog grooming job. Mike’s dream movie project is a remake of Carrie starring cats in every role, but his sorta-producer/sorta-friend Sebastian (played with perfect obnoxiousness by German funnyman and frequent Conan O’Brien guest, Flula Borg) thinks it’s a terrible idea and advises him not to pursue it.
But just when Mike is beginning to resign himself to a life of moping around, into the dog grooming clinic walks a pretty girl named Cora (Sonja Kinski, daughter of Nastassja and granddaughter of Klaus). When she immediately agrees to go on a date, Mike is overjoyed, although when the night itself arrives, he plunges even further into a series of psychotically surreal episodes, alongside a potential romantic evening viewing of 1995’s Michael Crichton adaptation Congo (one of the film’s most inspired gags).
Taking its cues from the central character’s (admittedly very cool) video art experiments, She’s Allergic to Cats affects a fuzzy analog style that makes everything feel like a slightly out-of-focus (and consequently, out-of-reach) dream, intermittently pierced by colourful audio-visual freakouts. Reich also plays the narrative like an absurdist soap opera, with melancholic synth chords, strange looks, and awkward dead air accompanying overly-emotional exchanges about banal problems like a bowl of ruined bananas.
The cast all make sure to enhance the film’s bizarro environment, with Kinski especially proving to be a worthy successor to her family’s distinctive acting legacy. Saddled with an initially uninteresting love interest role, she puts a darkly fresh spin on “the manic-pixie dream girl” trope by keeping us guessing whether she’s actually into this socially awkward dweeb or just a complete psychopath, culminating in an ending where the imagined and the real coalesce into something truly unhinged.
Not everything completely works in Reich’s L.A. nightmare-scape and there are moments where the randomness can feel somewhat like the director grasping at straws. But there’s no doubt that this is a unique experience, showcasing a director who, while fully deserving of that Hollywood dream, is maybe better off playing in the fringes.
- Release Date: 4/7/2020