A Street Cat Named Bob :: An Insult to the Homeless, An Insult to Cats…

Cineville - Bob Cat

I can think of no other film based on a true story that's so totally, utterly, unutterably false. From the very opening scene, it's massively apparent how horribly fake and totally contrived it is.

Luke Treadaway is James Bowen, a young homeless man who's trying to clean himself up and get off the streets. In a nutshell, he gets a flat, finds a cat and that's that. The cat helps him get clean. It also jumps on his back as he plays his guitar in the street, transforming him into something of a local character. He's featured in a local newspaper. Then a publisher rather cynically realises they can make a shitload of money out of him, finds him a ghostwriter and bingo: next thing you know, there's this appalling, appalling film.

Things in this film that rang false and irritated me:

* the writing: bland, hackneyed, wholly implausible, horrible horrible writing.
* the main performance: Luke Treadaway is as convincing as a homeless person as Donald Trump is as a feminist.
* art department details: e.g. the cardboard under which James is meant to have spent the night is clean and new — I mean, make a fucking effort, for Christ's sake. Also, the rat — aside from the rather clichéd appearance of a rat in the first place, the rat in this film is a shiny, rather glamorous rat, totally unconvincing and clearly straight out of stage school. And please don't tell me rats are clean animals — this is supposed to be a London street rat that hangs around junkies and it's got the air of a young Prince William.
* the writing again: again and again and a hundred times, the script has not an ounce of wit, originality or realism - everything feels like the first draft of a bad school play.
* the cat's eye view camera: I don't know how they manage to mess this up so thoroughly, but they do - it feels like someone has literally just strapped a smart phone to a cat's face.
* the drug dealers: they're like pantomime villains, worse than anything in Home Alone, which at least has the excuse of being a kids' film.
* the songs: twee and charmless.

Things in this film that pleased me:

* Bob the cat was alright - not a magnetic presence by any stretch, but still a cat, or a number of identical cats apparently, that included the real Bob. I love cats. That's what the half-star is for. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm really happy that James Bowen was able to get off the streets and make a life for himself, but this film is an insult to homeless people, and an insult to cats.


Cineville - Bob Cat


The Viewing

Every Tuesday at the Kriterion there is a special preview screening of a soon-to-be-released film. This was the first such screening I attended, and probably the last. I'd seen the trailer for this film a few times in the past couple of weeks and it was clearly a very bad film, and one I had no intention of seeing. Within minutes of it starting, it was clear that the impression I'd gained from the trailer was spot on. A Street Cat Named Bob is a horrible film.

Of course I could have walked out and if I had, I would not have been alone. I counted 12 walk-outs during this film and with every one, I got a little closer to joining them. But for some reason - I guess out of sado-masochistic curiosity - I stayed.

It was very busy by the way. There were lots of people in attendance. And it was great not knowing what I was going to see. It was genuinely exciting, and then of course, hugely disappointing.

Maybe I will go again. Because if it had been something I really want to see - Paterson, for example - I would have been very pleased.

Instead of bummed out, which is what I was. 

Poor Bob.

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you'll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven't already.

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