Out of paracetamol? A dose of Judi Dench in Cats is just the tonic | Rebecca Nicholson

The feline film is finally finding a captive home audience... the UK must wait to get its claws into it

Laughter is the best medicine, people used to say, which is handy, now that you can’t get a Panadol for love nor money. Unlike useful household medications, I’m taking laughter where I can get it. Highlights have included countless pop stars, from JoJo to Muna, rewriting the lyrics to their most famous tunes to tell people to stay at home; the fact that Cardi B shouting “Coronavirus! Coronavirus!” has now been remixed into an actual song; and, of course, the dedicated efforts of Dame Judi Dench. Her daughter, Finty Williams, posted “a message from ma”, a video of the star of stage and screen wearing a hat in the shape of a dog (a cat would have been apt, but more in a minute). Dench pulls up its ears. “Oh! There you are,” she says. The ears flop. “Just keep laughing. That’s all we can do.”

Dench is also inadvertently leading one of the strangest plot twists in recent movie history: Cats is finding a captive audience. Granted, that audience is particularly captive right now, but the film, widely derided as one of the most disastrous ever made is, miraculously, coming into its own. Last week, it won six Razzies, or Golden Raspberry awards, including the not-coveted worst picture and worst director gongs. Dench sadly lost out to Rebel Wilson for worst supporting actress, which Wilson won for her Jennyanydots performance. Dench was thrilled to be nominated, as she told Radio 4’s Front Row, but admitted that she hadn’t read anything about the reaction to the film, nor actually seen it, either.

Seth Rogen, however, has seen Cats. The actor got “pretty stoned” last week, and live-tweeted his reaction to his first viewing of the film. “It is truly trippy,” Rogen began. “Am I supposed to know what a Jellicle is? They’ve said it 200,000 times but I don’t know what’s happening haha.” He went on to make several pertinent observations, including this one, which really makes you think: “Judi Dench is in a cat fur coat which I can only assume is socially appalling in this world.”

Perhaps it’s the terrifying uncertainty of the day-to-day, or perhaps it’s Rogen’s delightfully delighted reaction to it, but Cats is starting to look like the movie we never knew we needed to spice up our quarantines. In the US, people are group watching it via video chat and entertainment sites are staging watch-alongs. The fact that the UK has to wait for a stream of it is making me consider starting a change.org petition. Move it forward, for the good of the nation!

Mockery aside, Gal Gadot’s all-star karaoke has its merits

Gal Gadot
British audiences have failed to appreciate Gal Gadot’s well-meaning sincerity. Photograph: Matt Winkelmeyer/VF20/WireImage

By now, Gal Gadot’s celebrity singalong to John Lennon’s Imagine has been widely shared and enjoyed, if by enjoyed you mean watching it as if watching Cats, before all of this happened. I appreciate the eagerness of celebrities to cheer us up, even if her assembled crew of actors and comedians has been mocked, particularly in Britain where we seem to have been vaccinated against sincerity. I watched it after the fnar-fnarring died down and, look, it has its merits. This is a great time for those who love to nose around other people’s houses, and the video proves to be a leveller in that it plays out exactly like any other karaoke.

Remember karaoke? Like TikTok, but when human contact was still a thing – this follows the same pattern. Gadot set the bar firmly in the middle. She can clearly sing but doesn’t belt it out. She does a nice job, then passes the baton. Her friends sing their lines with middling commitment. Some almost talk it, a great way to disguise tone-deafness, some give it moderate gusto, and then Sia comes along. Sia annihilates the competition by approaching it as she does the chorus from her song Chandelier, which has several thousand notes. She leaves you thinking, can I just see the Sia-only edit, please? Sia is here to support us, not to play.

The other best thing about the singalong is that my personal hero, Joe Lycett – or is he still called Hugo Boss? – has made his own version in which comedians say “bastard” as often as they can. Without the Gadot initiative, would this Bastard version exist? Truly, she is Wonder Woman.

Gareth Southgate – what true leadership is all about

Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate, leader of footballers and people. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

For anyone else watching the prime minister’s befuddling daily news briefings in a similar state of forehead-pummelling despair, wondering exactly when Boris Johnson is going to stop looking like he is both mildly amused by this diversion and a bit bloody put out at the drain on his bloody time, Gareth Southgate’s letter to England supporters is so emphatic in its leadership and generosity that you can only daydream of a fantasy future in which he is standing at the podium at 5pm every day, in a waistcoat.

In the letter, which left me with a little something in my eye, not that I touched it, Southgate addresses every pressing concern. He expresses sympathy towards those who have already lost loved ones, he emphasises our collective responsibility and he directs our attentions to where they are most needed.

“Now is clearly not the moment for us to take centre stage,” he writes. “The heroes will be the men and women who continue working tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centres to look after our friends and families.” He adds that when England players return to the pitch, “I will never have been prouder to be leader”. This is what leadership looks like.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist

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Rebecca Nicholson

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