Susanna Fogel’s ‘Cat Person’ brings a unique story about a young woman’s uncanny dating experience after her rom-com-esque life takes a tense horror turn. A college sophomore student, Margot, strikes up a flirty rapport with Robert, an older man who frequents the theater she works at. However, as the couple’s relationship begins to take form, Margot realizes that she’s badly romanticized Robert in her head. In reality, the man’s unpredictable behavior drives the girl to anxious unease. Thus, once she realizes she’s never seen the cats Robert claims to have as pets, she begins to wonder if the man is actually a serial killer.
The film unfolds from Margot’s perspective, including several moments of dynamically created contemplative inner dialogue. Therefore, as the viewers watch the events unravel around Margot, some confusions are bound to remain regarding Robert’s character and motives. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Cat Person Plot Synopsis
Margot works at a theater’s concession stand, often visited by a mysteriously mundane older man, Robert, who seems unreceptive to the girl’s casual flirting. Nevertheless, upon their second meeting, the man asks for her phone number, instantly catching her attention. As the two begin texting frequently, Margot becomes intrigued by the man, imagining what different versions of his reality behind the phone screen may look like.
Although her best friend Taylor advises Margot against moving too fast too soon to ensure she holds power in their relationship, the latter begins showing her more desperate need for his attention by double texting. Soon, Robert attempts to escape their text-exclusive relationship by meeting with her on campus. Although his intentions seem sweet, the girl can’t help but become anxious about the fact that she barely knows the much older man.
As a result, after the two somehow get locked inside a supply closet in one of Margot’s classes, she freaks out, leading to an awkward interaction. Afterward, in an effort to salvage their dynamic, Margot subtly suggests she’d like to keep texting Robert over the fall break when she returns to her hometown. However, after days of enthusiastic texting, Margot decides to send a suggestive photo to Robert once their conversation dulls. Even so, Robert’s reply doesn’t come, leading her to panic about her own eagerness.
By the time Margot returns to campus, she tries to play the instance as a comedic error, painfully aware of her own awkwardness once Robert finally gets around to responding again. Taylor— ever an advocate for unfair power dynamics in relationships, remains weary of Margot’s life choices. Nevertheless, once Robert finally asks Margot out on a date, the latter can’t help her excitement even if the date— a screening of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is hardly her idea of a good time.
Still, despite their awkward date, where Robert seems uninterested in making conversation, Margot softens when she realizes the former’s nervousness. As such, she attempts to convince herself Robert must be intimidated. Furthermore, after her fake ID fails to get her into a grown-up bar, the two share a kiss in a moment of vulnerability. The fact that the kiss is bad only increases Margot’s belief that Robert must be inexperienced. Therefore, tipsily realizing how much the man would enjoy sleeping with a young woman, Margot goes home with him, ignoring Taylor’s warning against it.
Nevertheless, once Margot actually arrives at Robert’s house, she realizes she doesn’t wish to have sex with him. Yet, well aware of the horror stories surrounding dates gone wrong, Margot realizes she isn’t in a place to turn him down and sleeps with him anyway. As unenjoyable as the sex is, the aftermath is worse as Margot realizes how little she’s attracted to Robert the more he talks.
For the same reason, Margot realizes she must end her relationship with Robert before it grows into anything more. However, she mulls over it, fearful of his reaction. Meanwhile, the man keeps texting her, unaware of her discomfort. Eventually, Taylor grows frustrated and sends a straightforward message to Robert from Margot’s number. Even though the man respects Margot’s decision at first, after the two almost run into each other at a college bar, Robert sends the girl a string of clingy, accusatory texts, ending on one simple and unnerving text, “Whore.”
Cat Person Ending: Does Robert Want to Kill Margot?
The dynamic between Margot and Robert remains plagued by a tense atmosphere from the start. Although Robert catches the girl’s attention through initial texting, Margot remains hyper-aware that she doesn’t really know the man. Their relationship begins on a virtual platform where Margot gets to see a watered-down version of Robert. Furthermore, the initial thrill of casual flirting allows the girl enough space to fantasize about the kind of man Robert might be, leaving her imagination to fill up corners with affection.
For the same reason, Margot is enthusiastic and excited while texting Robert but remains on edge in real life. However, Robert becomes unpredictable for Margot outside of the phone since she loses the level of separation between herself and the older man. Within their relationship, two inherently imbalanced power dynamics remain: first, a more subtle and manageable one that persists in every heterosexual relationship, and the other, a more menacing one caused by their age gap.
Robert is in his mid-thirties, and Margot is a fresh-faced 20-year-old. While it is legally alright for the latter to date the much older man, she’s young enough to be turned away from bars. Likewise, where Margot’s days revolve around college classes and part-time jobs, Robert has long left those experiences behind. Pair that with the constant horror stories Margot is surrounded by— of serial killings and date rapes— she’s wired to be weary of Robert’s company.
Thus, two versions of the man exist in front of Margot: a Robert that she’s created in her head that keeps her coming back for more, and the actual Robert whom she doesn’t trust enough not to murder her. Consequently, she imagines herself in dire situations every time she’s near the man and forces herself to have sex with him, considering it to be a better alternative than turning him down at his own house.
Still, Robert technically never does anything incriminating by directly putting Margot in harm’s way. Sure, the man is a lousy date and aggressive/controlling in bed, but Margot’s own lack of communication— even if justified— allows him plausible deniability. However, once Margot finally ends their short-term romance, Robert begins to show his true colors. After receiving his hostile messages, Margot spots the man waiting for her outside the movie theater, which compels her to remain anxious about walking home alone.
Consequently, Margot becomes paranoid about Robert’s intentions toward her. Even though his aggressive words and stalking tendencies aren’t breaching the law, Margot knows all it takes is one wrong step for her to end up in a fatal demise. As such, she decides to get ahead of the man and invest in self-defense equipment, including a tracking device.
After a particularly unpleasant argument with Taylor, Margot decides to recklessly sneak into Robert’s house and plant the tracking device. Naturally, the man catches the girl, and in a moment of panic, the latter ends up macing herself in the face. As a result, Robert is unwilling to let her leave his house, convinced that he would be incriminated of something perverse if he allowed her to leave the premises. However, in doing so, he effectively keeps her hostage, either blind or uncaring of the dangerous power he holds over her at the moment.
Furthermore, after discovering a particular dog at Robert’s house, Margot realizes that the man stalked her before their alleged “meet-cute,” a fact Robert attempts to defend by claiming he wanted to orchestrate an organic “origin story” for their romance. By relaying this information to Margot while she’s held against her will at his house with pepper spray in her eyes, Robert effectively proves that despite his claims of wanting honesty from Margot, she was right to be weary of his reaction from the start.
After all, if Robert reacts as such to Margot’s rejection, how well would he have taken her rejection when she changed her mind about sleeping with him after their first date? In the end, Robert does not turn out to be a serial killer. Yet, he’s just as dangerous to Margot due to his obstinate refusal to acknowledge the imbalanced dynamic between himself and the younger girl.
Does Margot Die? What Happens to Robert?
After Robert’s outburst, it becomes clear to Margot that she won’t be leaving the man’s house without a fight. Furthermore, after the revelation of Robert’s stalking past, she also realizes that despite his lack of homicidal tendencies, the man is dangerous to be around. Instead of a chance encounter as Margot had imagined, their first meeting was actually orchestrated by Robert. From there, Margot realizes that she was right to assume that Robert held all the power in their relationship from the start.
For his part, Robert insists that Margot wishes to put him in jail. On some level, he must be aware of his own wrongful actions— the stalking and aggressive texts— since he knows people are likely to jump to certain conclusions if they notice Margot walking away injured from his house. Therefore, he refuses to let her leave. As a result, an altercation ensues between the two, with Margot desperately trying to flee from the place while Robert violently subjugates her.
By the end, the pair tumble down into Robert’s basement, where Margot accidentally sets the room on fire with a space heater. As the room erupts in flames, the man finds a safe spot— a drain chamber— for them to escape the flame and the smoke. Even though Margot is hesitant to enter the box with the same man who has rained bruises on her in the past ten minutes, she’s left with no choice.
Eventually, Taylor, along with the firefighters, arrive at Robert’s house and find the pair in the chamber. Afterward, the two try to put the debacle behind them— with Margot returning to her old life and keeping quiet about everything that transpired between her and Robert. Meanwhile, Robert— who was actually a nurse— quits his job at the hospital and becomes all but inaccessible to Margot. Yet, the experience remains with the girl, as does the unshakeable fear of crossing paths with the man— or a similar one— again.
Why Was Robert Stalking Margot? Was It Margot’s Fault?
For all its explosive conclusion, the one thing ‘Cat Person’s’ ending refuses to provide the audience with is clear-cut answers for characters, defined in the moral black and white. Even though it would be easy to categorize everything that happens in the film in clean boxes of rights and wrongs, the narrative leaves space for moral ambiguity. The film strives to recreate the tense dating environment that the contemporary world possesses for women.
Even though Margot is led to believe she’s in control of situations, with Robert persistently believing that women are always believed, his statement remains statistically incorrect, as does the perception that Margot is on equal footing as her older male counterpart. Margot wants to have a simple, non-complicated connection with someone. For the same reasons, she ignores Taylor’s dating rules and allows herself to express her enthusiasm while texting Robert.
Nevertheless, Robert isn’t playing by the same rules. Unbeknownst to Margot, the man has actually orchestrated their coincidental meeting— going as far as stalking her all the way to her campus. Ironically, he defends his actions by claiming he wants an organic romance. Robert’s obsession with old Harrison Ford movies best explains his fallacies.
Robert grew up with misguided notions of romance, with 80s media guiding him through the terrain. He even sends Margot a montage of romantic scenes from films, wherein every time a woman gives into a man’s charms, it arrives on the heels of borderline assault or persistent nagging. Instead of challenging those beliefs and viewing his actions from a woman’s perspective, Robert blindly follows these conventions.
In the end, Robert’s stalking and every indiscretion that follows it remains his own to blame. However, the narrative makes a stark point of showcasing how Robert, a grown man, refuses to view these dangerous and threatening acts for what they are. Inversely, the responsibility to give someone the benefit of the doubt— even if at the cost of her own safety— falls on the 20-year-old girl. Moreover, through the ending scene of another older moviegoer falling for Margot’s smile and asking for her number, the film highlights the commonality of such instances in the contemporary dating world.