Karenna Umscheid ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
A biopic about a cat illustrator played by Benedict Cumberbatch, with outfits reminiscent of the vampires in What We Do In The Shadows and filled with intoxicating british-ness, this film could have been far more interesting than what it chose to be. Something in the grainy kaleidoscopic film makes it an enjoyable watch, but it’s far from an emotional or inspiring film. The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is a symptom of an overdone genre with oft-repeated messages of embracing individuality, yet failing to do so itself.
This film would be absolutely nothing without its strangeness throughout. The voiceover brings back painful memories of Bridgerton’s hayday, the CGI eyes of the cats are nearly nightmarish, the set design is reminiscent of eerie dollhouses, and parts of the score seem to be entirely composed of cats meowing. At one point, a cat’s meows are translated for the audience, one of them saying “jomping! I love jomping!” Heavy makeup is used to age Benedict Cumberbatch, which is incredibly jarring and off-putting. For all the idiosyncrasies in which this film indulges, it doesn’t seem to do anything interesting with the storyline. It’s often predictable, reminiscent of a languished genre that will do anything but improve.
Benedict Cumberbatch, in all his peculiarity and versatility, performs expectedly well in this film. It seems like the exact kind of film he would do, considering the extremely British outfits, silly dialogues, and quirky characters. His story begins with a man he meets on the train, who asks him to draw a picture of his cat; thus, sparking Louis Wain’s creative niche. And although he has an entire romantic storyline paired with loss and tragedy, it doesn’t hit as emotionally as it should.
He still plays well with the supporting cast, but his connection with the man he meets on the train is the most effective emotional moment.. Everything seemed to try to build to something bigger, and then it didn’t. His performance is cute and it fits the film well, but it’s not exceptional, or enough to make the film memorable.
Like most normal biopics, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain tells you plainly the message of the film through its dialogue: another iteration of the feel-good “you’re special” message that mainstream Hollywood loves. This wouldn’t be as irksome if it wasn’t already so tired. However, most films churned out by streaming services each year include some iteration of the successful outsider and tales of triumph despite monetary or social adversity. It’s worn-out, and has become uninteresting and ineffective.
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is definitely an enjoyable film, but despite its individuality and overall strangeness, it doesn’t set itself apart as an exceptional biopic. If you love biopics, cats, or Benedict Cumberbatch, then it’s worth a watch. But if you don’t fall into one of those niche categories, you probably won’t gain anything from watching it. Many of the shots seem to shimmer into a painting, but unfortunately, the pulp of the film lacks any original meaning that an impressive painting may have.