At the end of Cat Daddies, you can't help but suspect that this documentary didn't end up being the one that director Mye Hoang and producer/editor Dave Boyle had originally set out to make.
The movie is billed as "a refreshing and timely exploration of modern masculinity" told through the lens of cat-loving men around America. And the film, which screens Feb. 5 at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival, is bookended by sharp points related to that theme. The 75-minutes or so in the middle, however? Well, that's just seven men and a station house full of fire fighters hanging out with their kitties. It's not a bad film. Soothing, if anything. You're just not going to learn a great deal from it.
In the first and last moments of the film, some of the titular cat daddies discuss keeping their love of cats quiet while they were growing up. They describe receiving or fearing judgment from male friends for wanting to get cats at all. And some of them momentarily ponder old-fashioned notions of masculinity that are rooted in the idea of men as protectors. So, these men wonder, shouldn't protecting cats count too?
I wish the movie had delved further into that. I wish it had explored how tropes about cat ladies, and traditional notions of felines as inherently feminine, have made it harder for men to embrace their cat-loving selves. Instead, what we get are casual and intimate snapshots of some men who accidentally fell in love with cats and have found the will to embrace it.