Mike lives alone in a cluttered, fairly filthy apartment with an increasingly problematic rat infestation (is there any other kind?), and longs for companionship even though he’s understandably leery about bringing home a date. He’s also got a binder full of storyboards for a remake of Brian DePalma’s Carrie with an all-feline cast, a longtime dream project that his skirt-chasing producer pal (Flula Borg) feels, not unreasonably, probably lacks commercial potential.
Our hero eventually does have a meet-cute with the alluring but mysterious Cora (Sonja Kinski, granddaughter of Klaus) at work, and the initiation of their romance (aside from some dog nails cut too close to the quick) is pretty ordinary. Their actual courtship, though, is anything but, what with it involving a stolen pug, breaking-and-entering, bananas, and a DVD of the terrible (forgotten?) 90s action movie Congo.
Throughout all this, She’s Allergic to Cats walks a fine line between twee introspective comedy and weird, often macabre surrealism. The way that Reich keeps the scales from tipping too far toward either extreme is pretty impressive. Just when the film starts to feel almost conventional, it throws in an extended sequence about, say, the maintenance of canine anal glands. But then, before too long, we’re right back with Mike and his all-too-human problems, the absurdist stuff lingering like a half-remembered fever dream once the relatively straightforward plot kicks back in. Only the very ending pushes things too far into incomprehensibility and upends what is otherwise a really satisfying balance.
“…regularly dishes out strikingly bizarre moments while always giving his audience some recognizable emotion…”
Until those final moments, though, Reich regularly dishes out strikingly bizarre moments while always giving his audience some recognizable emotion or foible to grasp. He’s worked in more commercial modes before, having directed the My Chemical Romance video “Planetary (Go),” for example. And, unlike other purely experimental filmmakers, he’s obviously interested in being more than just confrontational toward his viewers.
The character of Mike really exemplifies this, with Pinkney delivering an honest-to-goodness sympathetic lead performance that makes even the Carrie idea seem like a well-meaning artistic endeavor rather than a manifestation of insanity. Kinski, too, has a compelling screen presence, most fully realized in a chilling monologue about death and ducklings. Cora remains something of a cipher, but there’s clearly a character there, not just a random collection of quirks.
It all adds up to a movie that’s hard to explain but still goes down surprisingly easily. She’s Allergic to Cats is wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful. For whomever it’s targeting, one really hopes they’ll be able to find it.
"…he's got a binder full of storyboards for an all-feline remake of Brian DePalma's Carrie..."