Review: CAT DADDIES, Beyond the Whiskers and Fur
Directed by Mye Hoang, the captivating documentary explores how cats are people too.
I am not a cat person, but I love this movie.
The film opens Friday, October 14 in New York City and expands thereafter throughout the U.S. Visit the official site for more information, including locations and dates.
Gentle, sweet and unassuming, director Mye Hoang's film steadily pushes aside any preconceptions that may be inherent in the title of her documentary, striking at the heart of people and the animals they love.
Why do I consider myself a dog person? Because I look like one? Or sound like one? No, it's because my father loved dogs and so we had a beloved family dog as we grew up, an animal who would leave his dinner bowl to put his head in my lap for petting. And he was a Doberman Pinscher, a breed of dog that has a reputation of being fierce and protective. Our dog was indeed protective, but this movie has nothing to do with him.
Rather, the movie focuses on a wide variety of men who are as distinctively individual as the cats they love dearly. They are forthright in expressing their love, no matter what others may think of them; instead, they put their cat(s) first, ahead of their own interests, which is, after all, one of the defining characteristics of true love, romantic or otherwise.
Director Hoang begins things on a lighter note with an actor in Los Angeles who gradually embraced first one, then another, and eventually four cats, finding unexpected benefits from sharing his love of cats on his social media account. The documentary then gently spins out further across the U.S., visiting with all sorts of men: a firefighter in the South, an undocumented immigrant in New York City, an advertising professional in Brooklyn who also runs a non-profit to rescue feral cats in his neighborhood, a school teacher, a software engineer, a truck driver who has traveled across the country, a stuntman and even a police officer.
Several of them have jobs that, in the past, have been culturally masculine occupations, fit only for manly men. As those barriers have broken down, slowly, so have the preconceptions, at least to a degree. Now, these men feel free to express their feline side, which manifests in a loving, caring, and attractive manner.
The documentary itself is irresistible, even for those of us who may never have considered ourselves to be cat people. That's because the photography is gorgeous and the editing is smooth and spacious, offering an expansive view of the individuals and their surroundings. Though the title may suggest a limited view -- 'ooh, here are some men and their kitties' -- director Hoang goes beyond the obvious, finding deeper thematic connections to how people relate to one another and why the search for comfort often lies in the heart of a cat, especially over the past couple of years, as we have all faced down the limitations, restrictions, and tragedies of the pandemic.
Cat Daddies soars through all the trouble. It does not not ignore or minimize the gigantic challenges in our lives, but shows a way to cope when confronting disaster and death. And, yes, it warms the heart of even the sternest, dog-loving people among us.
(Full disclosure: I have known the filmmaker for 20 years and consider her a friend. She was not involved in the writing or editing of this review.)
- Mye Hoang