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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Surreal Cats & Too Much More
by Betty Jo Tucker

 “He made the cat his own,” H.G. Wells once remarked about eccentric artist Louis Wain. “He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world….Cats that don’t look like Louis Wain’s feel ashamed of themselves.”

In Victorian England, cats were looked down upon and seldom thought of as pets. But when Louis Wain and his wife found a kitten shivering in the rain, they took the cute little feline in, named him Peter and the rest is cat history.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain stars Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog), who puts his heart and soul into this difficult performance.  He has to act like a genius who might have been schizophrenic and/or autistic. Wain even thought that electricity could be used for time travel among other things. He worked as a free-agent press illustrator but turned down a full-time job, even though he had six sisters to support after the death of his parents. And he ended up marrying the governess he hired (played by the wonderful Claire Foy/TV’s The Crown). That upset his oldest and grouchiest sister (Andrea Riseborough/Birdman) because she had fired her and the bride was not of their class. However, the marriage turned out to be the best thing in Wain’s life until his wife died of cancer.

Tragedy after tragedy ensued. It appears that If Wain didn’t have his popular cat illustrations, he might be left with nothing but his bizarre thoughts. Unfortunately, this biopic tries to cover too much of Wain’s sad life instead of concentrating on his fabulous feline artistry.                            

Who saw cats as perfect for pets?

Say “Louis Wain” and win all bets.

An artist into everything.

   A mind so electrifying.

 

Financial matters, not for him.

    And so his life was mostly grim.

 But his cat paintings charmed them all.

Can whimsical cats save him from fall?

 

This movie tries telling true tale.

But too much happens not to fail.

Still, Cumberbatch lives in the part.

And many scenes showcase true Art.

Although hard to follow, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain gets help from the engaging voice of candid narrator Olivia Colman (Oscar® winner for The Favourite). Still, I can’t help thinking it should have been a TV series instead of a movie. Director/writer Will Sharpe (Black Pond) and co-writer Simon Stephenson (Paddington 2) took on this ambitious project, and part of it works beautifully. However, as famous minimalist Miles van der Rohe believed, “Sometimes less is more.  

(Released by Amazon Prime Video and rated “PG-13” by MPAA.)   


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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