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‘Cats’ director says movie is political, about ‘perils of tribalism’

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  • “Cats” director Tom Hooper explained to Business Insider what he meant when he said at the movie’s world premiere that the story is about the “perils of tribalism.”
  • He said that it “is a reflection of today’s political scene.”
  • “Cats” is currently playing in theaters.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

 

Many out there might think “Cats” is just a zany musical Andrew Lloyd Webber composed in the 1980s after being inspired by T.S. Eliot poetry. But Tom Hooper doesn’t see it that way.

The director of the big-screen adaptation of the Broadway hit gave his take on what he thinks the story is about when he introduced the movie at its world premiere at Lincoln Center in New York City on Monday. And it’s kind of dark.

He told the audience that he felt the movie is about the “perils of tribalism.”

In “Cats,” the story follows a group of felines called Jellicles on the night they choose one of their own to ascend to the Heaviside Layer.

The day after the world premiere, Hooper sat down with Business Insider and expanded on his comments from the night before.

“The Jellicle, in a sense, its weakness is it is tribal,” he said. “It’s pushed to its margins. The fallen, the forgotten, the disgraced.”

cats universal

Jennifer Hudson in “Cats.”
Universal


The example he uses is Jennifer Hudson’s character, Grizabella, who has been pushed out of the Jellicle tribe. It takes a newcomer, Victoria (played by Francesa Hayward), to bring her back in.

“I think the film at a thematic level is perhaps suggesting that we as a community are stronger when rather than dividing we reintegrate into our community the fallen, the forgotten, the disgraced,” Hooper said. “So central to the movie is a message about the importance of forgiveness.”

But the Oscar-winning director of “The King’s Speech” added that his exact usage of the term “perils of tribalism” was political.

“[It] is a reflection on today’s political scene,” he said. “Both in the UK and the US the tribalism of cultural discourse and politics is making it harder and harder for acts of kindness across the divide.”

That’s a pretty deep take for a movie about singing cats. And it might get lost as all the talk so far has been the critical reaction it’s getting.

“Cats” currently only has a 20% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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