Dramatisation of a long hushed-up Hollywood scandal involving publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst who, in 1924, filled his yacht with the rich and famous, including his lover, Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin and gossip columnist Louella Parsons. By the end of the weekend one of the guests is dead.
Peter Bogdanovich is now best known for playing Dr. Melfi's shrink in The Sopranos. Time was, though, he was a wunderkind filmmaker, one of the easy-riding raging bulls who overturned '70s Hollywood with ground-breaking films, in his case The Last Picture Show.
Less well known still is Bogdanovich's encyclopaedic knowledge of old Hollywood, much of which came direct from source - Orson Welles, for example, once lived with him. The Cat's Meow unites Bogdanovich the filmmaker and the historian. Although directing from Steven Peros' script from his own play, Bogdanovich tells a tale he's known for years, one of the great hushed-up Tinseltown scandals - the mysterious death in November 1924 of one of the guests aboard the yacht of William Randolph Hearst (Welles' target for satire in Citizen Kane) makes a mockery of modern-day Hollywood scandals. It also provides salacious material for Bogdanovich's first theatrical release in years.
The problem is, The Cat's Meow is curiously uninvolving. It never comes to life - even after someone is found dead. Nevertheless, there are pleasures to be found in the performances, particularly in Eddie Izzard's lovelorn Chaplin and Edward Herrmann's paranoid Hearst.
The potential of this pure Hollywood Babylon story remains unrealised, instead playing out as half-baked Agatha Christie. Not uninteresting, but a disappointment.
Reviewed by Miles Fielder