Cinematic Releases: The Cat and the Moon (2019) - Reviewed

Multi-talented actor-writer-producer Alex Wolff, best known for his strong supporting performances in Patriot’s Day and Hereditary, is one of the brightest young shining stars currently breaking into the film industry.  Starting out as a child actor on the Nickelodeon series The Naked Brothers Band before amassing a wealth of titles behind him over the next decade, Mr. Wolff also teamed up with his older brother in the musical duo Nat & Alex Wolff, furthering his diverse creative range as a performer and an artist.  It was only a matter of time before the young prodigy would set his sights on trying his hand at film directing which brings us to the actor’s debut as writer and director: The Cat and the Moon.

A familiar but no less engaging and sympathetic coming-of-age story, The Cat and the Moon like Malcolm McDowell’s semi-autobiographical surreal comedy O Lucky Man! stems directly from the actor’s own most personal life experiences.  Like the character Nick (Alex Wolff), he’s the son of a Jazz musician (late in the film’s case) and is in the midst of finding himself.  In the case of Nick, displaced from his Detroit home after his father’s passing and mother’s stint in drug rehab, the boy temporarily relocates to New York under the care of his father’s former music partner Cal (Mike Epps).  While there, the film follows his day-to-night mingling with fellow high-schoolers bombing around drug and alcohol parties while coming to terms with his own sense of rootlessness in a world of endless possibilities.

Moving at a leisurely but consistently captivating pace, The Cat and the Moon leaves ample room for Mr. Wolff to flex his acting muscles while testing the waters of mounting a film production of his own.  Aided by a soothing, moody Jazz score composed by Wolff himself alongside his father, the experience of watching The Cat and the Moon is a bit like a promenade with some tense yet revelatory moments and an overarching tender sincerity permeating the whole thing.  Of Wolff’s performances to date, this is easily his most honest and closest to heart.  Also strong in a welcome turn is Mike Epps as his father’s friend/surrogate father to Nick.  For an actor usually cast in comedies, Epps brings a wealth of dramatic weathers to his role and provides an excellent contrast to the largely youthful cast.

Though Alex Wolff’s film depicts a coming-of-age cinematic road we’ve been down numerous times before, The Cat and the Moon works anyway for its sincerity and the strength of the film’s leading actor/writer-director.  As a snapshot of youth culture amid the New York night life, the film was a bit of an eye opener which touched on the city’s drug scene without going overboard.  Mostly though, this is Wolff’s show and for a first time effort in the director’s chair the man is a lot better at it than you’d expect.  

A confident and consistently entertaining directorial debut, The Cat and the Moon hopefully promises more feature filmmaking efforts from Mr. Wolff who has already more than proven he has the chops to tell an endearing story you can relate to while making a personal statement that is unmistakably from his own life experiences.  Its quiet charm will inevitably grow on you.

--Andrew Kotwicki