Patience Phillips (Halle Barry) is aptly named. Meekly waiting for an opportunity to shine in the advertising department of Hadare Cosmetics, the self-deprecating commercial artist works hard with little faith she'll ever be acknowledged.
Eager to prove her worth on a big project, the young woman sets off to hand-deliver her design. Unfortunately, she accidentally wanders into an after hours meeting where the company's darkest secrets of success are revealed. Rather than risk losing millions of dollars in market potential, the corporate powers order the insignificant employee to be flushed out of the picture.
But a fate other than death awaits our drowned heroine. Reborn by the breath of a mysterious Egyptian cat, Patience awakens endowed with many feline attributes. These include such things as heightened senses, enhanced flexibility, and a hankering for tuna. (Played like a scene out of the musical "Cats", the dramatic tone caused a few unexpected snickers in the crowd I screened the film with.)
She also seems to be suffering from a bi-polar personality that swings between mousy and catty. The reincarnate "good girl, bad girl" combo begins prowling the town to look for trouble and seek vengeance, before she even understands what has happened to her.
Catwoman howls female empowerment from the rooftops. From the oppressed Patience Phillips, to the scorned antagonist, the women characterized in the film all profess some sort of male domination
Yet for all the preaching in the dialogue, the visual images imply liberation comes only from turning oneself into a sex object. Dressed in a push-me-up bra and skintight leather pants, the action figure cracks her whip and struts her stuff to a decidedly sensual musical score.
Along with the slinky costume (a ludicrous choice for scaling walls and leaping tall buildings), content issues of concern are the implied sexual relationship between Patience and her policeman boyfriend Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt), and the plentiful stylized violence. Catwoman pursues her prey with jumps, hits and kicks, aided by obvious computer enhancements. These unrealistic depictions are yet another reason this film lacks credibility-even though it tries hard to take itself seriously.
For me, the biggest disappointment was watching Catwoman flirt with criminal behavior. Unlike other superheroes (such as Superman or Spider-man) who use their unusual talents for the greater good of society, this pussycat seeks only personal gratification. A role model who gains confidence by unleashing her baser animal instincts, and possesses no moral conscience to guide her newfound powers, may also cause other parents to lose their patience.