I was convinced Sandra Bullock had a cat in The Net until recently, when I watched it again and saw no, she just had a computer. However, this pretty much performed most of the functions of a cat in the film, enabling her, a single woman living on her own, to talk out loud and provide exposition when there was no-one else physically present in the room. But a computer falls short in some of the other ways by which a cat’s presence can enhance a film – cute reaction shots, for example, or the visual dynamic of the feeding ritual.
Perhaps I was thinking all along of this Bullock rom-com that came out the same year, her first starring vehicle after Speed and one that put the seal on her adorable, slightly klutzy, slightly geeky girl-next-door persona. Bullock plays Lucy, a single woman so lonely that when the family of a comatose man mistakenly assumes she’s his fiancé, she plays along with the charade so she can spend time with them.
And of course, Lucy has the ultimate signifier of the single woman – a cat. Its name is Fluffy. Sure enough, she talks to Fluffy when there’s no-one else around, and every so often we get some cute reaction shots.
Interestingly, the other major single female character in the film – Coma Guy’s real fiancée – also has a cat, which in this context fills a CATGUFFIN function by providing Lucy with a reason to go to Coma Guy’s apartment to feed it, leading to some comedy business there with his brother (Bill Pullman). This is important for the story because Lucy and the brother (you know it as soon as he walks on the screen, so it’s hardly a spoiler) will eventually get together, but in the meantime it’s not that easy finding narrative pretexts for them to run into each other.
- How-To: Sandra Bullock’s Tousled and Teased Ponytail (bellasugar.com)
- Sandra Bullock Naked On ‘Chelsea Lately’ (huffingtonpost.com)