As someone who continues to maintain that Troma's Teenage Catgirls in Heat is one of the top 100 films of all-time, I eagerly anticipated finally getting a chance to check out Dennis A. Nicholson's Kitty Mammas, an absurdist-tinged dramedy that isn't nearly as absurd as you might think.
It's not an easy task to take a rather absurd story seriously, but that's exactly what happens with Kitty Mammas. With a script penned by Katrina Nicholson, Kitty Mammas plops itself smack-dab in the middle of what could have easily been nonsense and instead creates an engaging and meaningful film that is both incredibly funny and incredibly heartfelt. It all centers around one Dr. Han (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), a disgraced fertility doc with a new and grand experiment and a documentary crew covering the entire journey.
Dr. Han is running a clinical trial in which, if all goes as planned, four women will give birth to kittens.
There's Kathryn Kohut's Joan Jett, a law-school bound woman with some serious ungrad debt who can use the cash.
Janet Porter's Sylvia is a married mother with an OCD husband and a seemingly impossible life.
Maria (Vienna Hehir) is engaged to the supportive Jennifer (Zarrin Darnell-Martin) but wrestles with her not so supportive mother.
Then, there's Rose (Morgan Kohan). Rose is a cat-obsessed vlogger who brings new meaning to the phrase "crazy cat lady" but does so in such an endearing way you can't help but love her anyway.
What should be absurd, and certainly is on occasion, is instead a remarkably wonderful film with fully alive characters who wrestle with doubts and feelings and life and, yes, even maternal instincts. They form bonds with their kittens to be and with each other and, yes, they vulnerably explore the natural anxieties one would understandably have when participating in such an outlandish medical study.
There's so much going on here yet this cast pulls it off quite beautifully.
Anyone who's even remotely familiar with me won't be surprised at all that I was immediately drawn to Morgan Kohan's incredibly delightful Rose. There's an awful lot going on with Rose, but it's often hidden underneath layers of cat hair and Rose's inherently rambunctious nature. Kohan's performance here captures it all, an almost insatiable need to vlog everything yet the truths masked underneath all that vlogging. Rose is a precious soul and Kohan masterfully allows us to laugh with her, laugh at her, and absolutely love her.
The same is true for the other characters, of course, though perhaps with less outright absurdity. Vienna Hehir is an absolute gem as Maria, giving the film an absolute emotional resonance that grounds it all. Kathryn Kohut's Joan Jett is both endearing yet occasionally intense while Janet Porter's Sylvia is complex and compelling while still making us laugh.
The film's real scene-stealer may very well be Stephanie Belding as Pauline, a nurse caught somewhere between Nurse Ratched, Betty Boop, and Margaret Houlihan. It's a fantastic performance and Belding lights up the screen every time she's on it. Helene Robbie steals scenes in a different way as Dr. MacKenzie, the project's vet and whose ex-husband Darryl (Drew Nelson) proves to be one of its biggest obstacles.
Oh yeah, and there's Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who amidst it all projects something resembling normalcy that isn't quite normalcy.
Kelly Durrant's lensing is pristine and inspired throughout while Spencer Creaghan's original music complements the film quite nicely.
Kitty Mamma is an unusual film. That's for sure. However, it's also a special little film that likely gave fits to fest programmers and left indie distributors befuddled by how to market the unique yet inspired project. Gravitas Ventures is a good indie home for this little gem of a film that will hopefully find the audience it so deserves.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic