Truth About Cats and Dogs
Uma Thurman (Noelle Slusarsky)
Janeane Garofalo (Abby Barnes)
Ben Chaplin (Brian)
Jamie Foxx (Ed)
James McCaffrey (Roy)
David Cross (Bookstore Man)
Bob Odenkirk (Bookstore Man)
MPAA rating: PG-13
U.S. release: April 26, 1996
Video availability: VHS - DVD
reviewed on this website:
Days and 40 Nights
Janeane Garofalo says she can't
bear to look at herself on a movie screen. She's the only one
who can't. Whip-smart, insecure, and good-hearted -- and also
beautiful, no matter what she says -- Garofalo is accessible
to anyone in the audience (except maybe herself). She turns a
common modern malady, the pain of self-consciousness, into ironic
comedy; she's like Woody Allen, only saner and more soulful.
The Truth About Cats and
Dogs is the hot date
movie of the spring, and Garofalo can take a bow for that. As
Abby Barnes, a talk-radio veterinarian who gives advice to the
owners of neurotic pets, Garofalo transcends the mechanics of
the script (by Audrey Wells) and creates a fully alive woman
who first dismisses, and then is tickled by, the idea that she
could be desirable. But Abby is desirable, and the deep
pleasure of the movie is in watching her realize that.
The plot is gimmicky and blatantly Cyrano-ish. (After
this and Il Postino, can we declare a moratorium on Cyrano?)
Brian (Ben Chaplin), a photographer who's just acquired a big,
friendly dog, falls in love with Abby's voice and wit on the
radio. He calls and asks to meet her. Panicking, Abby describes
herself as a supermodel type and then persuades her neighbor
Noelle (Uma Thurman), herself a model, to pose as "Abby."
Much predictable confusion follows. Brian falls in love with
Noelle's beauty and Abby's mind; both women fall in love with
his kindness, and there are two wonderful, understated scenes
in which Brian, without touching either of them sexually, satisfies
their physical craving. He and Abby have a phone marathon that
turns into blissful phone sex, and then he encourages the borderline
anorexic Noelle to pig out on dessert (this moment is far sexier
than a similar scene in 9 1/2 Weeks).
Yet Brian can't quite reconcile
Noelle's vague manner and general lack of eroticism with Abby's
wit and quietly sensual allure. In short, he's a dummy, but the
British Chaplin (no relation) plays him appealingly and sensibly.
Director Michael Lehmann shows a gentle touch with actors that
he's never had before -- certainly not in the overrated Heathers.
Lehmann doesn't push the sitcom plot twists or anything else.
Cats and Dogs isn't all Garofalo's show. In a way, Uma
Thurman has the harder role. The audience is already primed to
root for Abby; how do you make us empathize with Abby's goddessy
rival? But Thurman does it. She gives us a touching portrait
of an essentially lonely woman starved for kindness. When you
first see the movie's title, you assume Noelle is the sexy cat
and Abby the friendly, scruffy dog. But then they switch places:
Noelle, it turns out, is more doglike, desperate for true affection
(instead of empty adoration of her looks), while Abby becomes
a cat, purring in contentment, no longer needing reassurance.
Dogs are eager to please; cats don't worry about being themselves.