We take a look at this adapted true story of heroin addiction, homelessness and a loving feline…
A homeless recovering heroin addict is able to turn his life around thanks to the positive influence of a particularly faithful streetcat. That probably sounds like a cheesy – not to mention implausible – inspirational film, but it’s actually the true story of James Bowen, as chronicled in his books A Street Cat Named Bob, The World According to Bob, and a number of spinoffs which came in the form of children’s stories, picture books, short stories, and now a motion picture too.
Rising Brit star Luke Treadaway puts on a convincing Australian accent for his portrayal of the likeable and hapless Bowen. In a remarkable case, the real Bowen is better-looking than his movie-star counterpart, as can be easily verified in a scene at the very end in which Bowen cameos Erin Brokovich-style. Other enjoyable cast turns include a small but significant part from Anthony Head as the estranged father, and Ruta Gedmintas as Bowen’s animal-loving, hippy-ish neighbour Belle. Belle is a level 5 vegan, meaning she doesn’t eat “anything that casts a shadow”. This is a throwaway joke from The Simpsons that has had legs, showing up in equally baffling context in the rather sweet Transamerica. Characters like Belle are often dismissively described as Manic Pixie Dream Girls but, when properly used, the term denotes a character with no observable inner life – think Zooey Deschanel in Yes Man, but not Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer. Gedmintas’ performance is bravely layered, a thing of beauty that almost threatens to steal the attention from Treadaway’s lead.
This is plainly ridiculous, as the lead is stolen only by Bob the cat. In fact, by closely examining the end credits, I was able to discover that the film version of Bob was portrayed by six or seven different, yet remarkably similar, animal actors. Only one of those was the real-life Bob, but he is nonetheless impressive in the rôle. The cliché goes that you shouldn’t work with children or animals, but A Street Cat Named Bob proudly flouts that rule, throwing in dogs and frogs and mice and a bunny rabbit too. Director Roger Spottiswoode is a talented hired gun whose diverse CV includes the slasher Terror Train, the Patricia Highsmith adaptation Ripley Under Ground, and a number of documentaries and true-life war stories as well as, best of all, the underrated Bond outing Tomorrow Never Dies. But he evidently has a special fondness for animal stories, given Turner & Hooch and The Journey Home (Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot nearly counts). It feels unusual to say that a cat is the highlight of a picture – especially since I’m more of a dog lover myself – but it’s the case here.
A Street Cat Named Bob is out today in UK cinemas, will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!