The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)
July 18, 2023 8:26 AM - Subscribe

[TRAILER] A successful veterinarian and radio show host with low self-esteem (Janeane Garafalo) asks her model friend (Uma Thurman) to impersonate her when a handsome man (Ben Chaplin) wants to see her.

Also starring Jamie Foxx, James McCaffrey, Richard Coca, David Cross, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Bob Odenkirk.

Directed by Michael Lehmann (Heathers,Airheads). Written by Audrey Wells (George of the Jungle, Under the Tuscan Sun). Music composed by Howard Shore.

85% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Available for digital rental in most of the usual places. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I couldn't let Carillon post all of the 90's/00's romcoms...
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:26 AM on July 18, 2023 [9 favorites]

I seem to recall someone at the time pointing out one of the things in that last link: who thinks that Garofalo is ugly? I mean, lookism is bad regardless, but bwuh? Overall, I thought that it was pretty sweet, and the part in which Noelle pretends to be a vet was especially funny.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:01 AM on July 18, 2023 [11 favorites]

who thinks that Garofalo is ugly?

I feel like you could make this movie now with a more nuanced version of Abby (and that's down to the writing, not to Garofalo's portrayal) as an introvert who just panics for a moment and can't bring herself to correct it and reeling in both "Noelle is improbably gorgeous" (because it's LA, where you see the most gorgeous person you've ever seen in your life on a weekly basis) and "Abby is bleah to look at".
posted by Etrigan at 9:12 AM on July 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

Maybe I just had a crush on Garofalo (OK, I definitely had a crush on her) but I chose to believe the movie was saying Abby considered herself ugly because of [waves hands at misogynist world, LA of that time in particular] and that she needed to let go of that. I was habitually too forgiving of movies as a younger person though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:14 AM on July 18, 2023 [9 favorites]

Ah, the movie that tried to convince us that Janeane Garofalo wasn't attractive.
posted by Kitteh at 10:24 AM on July 18, 2023 [10 favorites]

Ebert also reflected on the way Garofalo was presented.

Thurman has always been gorgeous, and appealing in a lot of her roles. But I had a funny feeling about the way she was styled and carried herself in this film, that she was intentionally a little dorky-looking. She's thin and blonde, so that's conventionally attractive for a lot of people but she doesn't seem like she's being presented as a stunner in this movie and I found that to be a plus. If anything, Garofalo has more presence.
posted by BibiRose at 11:20 AM on July 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I saw this when it came out, on my one and only date with a woman named Jody. She seemed to like it a lot as I recall, but I was mystified by the whole thesis: Thurman’s character is tall, with nice bone structure, but Garofalo’s is presented as intelligent and funny.

Oddly, a few weeks later I went to a showing of Stomp with a woman named Juliette — things never went further as she was moving away to grad school not long thereafter.

Jody was tall, with a lovely bone structure; Juliette was a bit shorter, but fiercely intelligent and with a scalpel-like wit.

I honestly had not thought of Jody in decades until just now. Juliette I still muse on every few weeks and wonder how her life has turned out.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:40 PM on July 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

20 Years Later, Janeane Garafalo [sic] Breaks Down 'The Truth About Cats and Dogs'' Most Problematic Moments

Janeane Garofalo loved complaining about the movie, even at the time it was out. The linked interview is more substantive than the stuff I remember from her in the '90s, which included criticizing the fashion choices and soundtrack. I thought it was a perfectly fine movie, formulaic but satisfying. On par with The Matchmaker, which is a movie she'd say nice things about in interviews.

I kind of felt she was supposed to be more "attractive librarian who needs to take off her glasses" stock character type than actually ugly, though that may be more cognitive dissonance than how it was actually presented.

I like romcoms, but one recurring problem for me in the '90s was that they kept the leads apart by giving one or both of them an existing significant other, who was then treated horribly (by their partners, or the screenplay, or both) when it was time to discard them. This movie at least avoided that.
posted by mark k at 8:24 PM on July 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

Crazy, I was thinking about this movie this morning and the whole Garofalo attractiveness thing, which seemed to be the main discussion about the movie when it came out and is pretty much the only thing people remember about it now. BibiRose's point about Thurman's styling is really interesting; her most memorable look, in the poster and the trailer, is that weird sackcloth dress thing. It feels as though the movie is trying to undermine its own premise by saying she's this goddess but also sort of a dowdy dork. Obviously goddesses can be dowdy dorks, but just as girl takes her glasses off and is suddenly beautiful is bullshit, character is not presented as particularly attractive yet they're stopping traffic because otherwise we have no movie is also bullshit.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:47 PM on July 18, 2023

And yeah, it sucks then and now that the whole movie and any discourse around it is predicated on comparing the appearances of two women.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:50 PM on July 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

If I recall correctly, Thurman is styled as "dowdy" when she's "playing" Garofalo's character. So basically the premise is that smart women don't look like Thurman. Which is also insulting to a great many conventionally beautiful women who are also brilliant like Hedy Lamarr.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:10 AM on July 19, 2023 [4 favorites]

It's funny that she's supposed to be dowdy and unattractive because the ONLY thing I remember about this movie from seeing it as a 13 year old was that I came out of it with an incredible crush on Garofalo (formative years). I didn't even remember it had Uma Thurman in it (or Jamie Foxx!!!). That's clearly a me thing, however. Shocked by that rotten tomatoes score especially because pre-2000s ratings above 80% are basically 98% ratings today, so I'm looking forward to revisiting it.
posted by dis_integration at 6:30 AM on July 19, 2023

One of the points TTACaD's source material, Cyrano de Bergerac, makes is that Cyrano is actually attractive, too; the tragedy is that he himself can't get over his self-perception as being ugly. And yeah, the fact that he's eloquent and charming is absolutely part of that attraction.

In the opening scene where Cyrano duels the fop, effortlessly, while composing a poem about it in the process, he is approached after the fight by a young woman who offers him anything he wants from her refreshment tray, and probably anything else besides -- she is clearly smitten with him, a fact that Cyrano's best friend Le Bret lampshades. But Cyrano can't admit it to himself, because then he would have no excuse not to approach Roxanne, and he hasn't the courage to do so.

Knowing all this and not being blind to how lovely Garofalo is (she plays the only character I was rooting for in Reality Bites, for example), I probably read more of "Absolutely Garofalo's character is beautiful, she just doesn't see it" than the movie actually offers, but it worked for me.

Points to the film also for Chaplin portraying the conflict over being immediately attracted to Uma Thurman's (who he thinks is Garafolo) best friend (Garofalo herself, of course). Lampshading the realization that the Cyrano character is more like Cyrano than Christian is better than portraying the Roxanne character -- who is intelligent as well as beautiful -- as oblivious (a weakness of Steve Martin's otherwise excellent Roxanne, for example).
posted by Gelatin at 7:48 AM on July 19, 2023 [7 favorites]

So - this movie came out - and I wanted to see if, because I had a massive crush on Garofalo.

However - I refused to see it (and still have not) because of the ludicrous premise that Garofalo was ugly.
posted by rozcakj at 11:02 AM on July 19, 2023

Uh… the premise is that they are all insecure.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:05 PM on July 21, 2023

Maybe there's a kernel of "they're all just insecure" and maybe some people working it were secretly hoping it'd be taken that way. But let's be real, just look at the title. Such a funny pun because the main character hosts a show about pets, but also we use cats and dogs as shorthand for stereotypes about women! Ha ha!

Also, the star still thinks of it as reinforcing her worst doubts about her looks. That should tell us something.

I also came out of this as a kid with a crush on Garofalo, so I'd love an excuse to rehabilitate it in my mind, but it really is a problem movie that probably messed a lot of people up.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:06 PM on July 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

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