Whether it’s the vulgar insanity of Tim and Eric or the cringe-worthy dedication of Nathan Fielder, awkward comedic sensibilities have become an accepted new norm in the genre. Acting as the brain-child of that style mixed with a surrealist edge, Michael Reich’s directorial debut She’s Allergic to Cats goes for broke in its embrace of the uncomfortable. While it will certainly draw divisive reactions, Reich’s effort thrives as an inventive experience that pushes its form to its absolute limit.
She’s Allergic to Cats follows Mike Pinkney (Mike Pinkney), a down-on-his luck dog groomer who spends his time day dreaming about a career in the film industry while crafting his own bizarre low-fidelity projects. He is awoken from his downbeat daily cycle when he meets Cora (Sonja Kinski), a girl who he aims to impress despite his low-status lifestyle.
Crafting a plot description for Reich’s intentionally bizarre, semi-autobiographical project does the film a disservice, as behind its thinly-veiled narrative lies a plethora of unique pleasures. Most low-budget efforts try to hide their budgetary restrictions, but She’s Allergic to Cats wears them as a badge of honor, with Reich developing a lucid, low-fi style that allures the audience into its madcap reality.
There’s some genuine artistry to appreciate here, with Forrest Borie’s manic editing style blending Reich’s surrealist imagery into a bewildering concoction. Thankfully, this approach isn’t a vapid exercise, with the film’s stylistic identity acting as a representation of Mike’s absent-minded mental state. It’s also a suitable vehicle for the film’s boldly self-aware comedic voice, with Reich’s screenplay thankfully never winking at the camera in its portrait of its film nerd protagonist.
Whether it’s Mike revealing an anecdote about his confusion towards the sexuality present in Howard the Duck or the character’s attempts at making Carrie with cats, the oft-kilter frequency Pinkney’s performance operates in draws a heaping of belly laughs. It’s a joy to watch a film so brazen and self-assured in its approach, throwing shocking gags at the screen with reckless abandon for audience’s reactions.
She’s Allergic to Cats throws a lot of darts at the board, but this approach creates its fair share of blemishes. Its abrasive style is cleverly quirky when it works, but there’s also several gags that range from pointlessly crass to downright bewildering (a gag involving transvestites stealing a cat comes to mind). Reich’s project is also too narrow-minded to engage with its thematic potential, missing its opportunity to act as a rumination on male fragility and the empty pretensions of want-to-be-artists.
Meandering to its predictable conclusion, there is a level of unevenness present through She’s Allergic to Cats’ runtime. Even with that being the case, I had a pleasant time living in Reich’s outlandishly unkempt world, with the writer/director already displaying his own idiosyncratic voice in his first feature outing.
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