There are few films being released at present that are quite as absurd as Onur Tukel’s Catfight, and yet it’s a picture that blends its irreverence with a satirical undercurrent that enriches the narrative, making for a film that is irrepressibly entertaining – and yet is complete with a rather pointed socio-political message.
Sandra Oh plays Veronica, a woman who appears to have it all – a wealthy husband, a talented young son, and a seemingly straightforward life, with evenings spent drinking wine at gatherings amongst colleagues and friends. But is she happy? Not particularly – and this is a trait she shares with struggling artist Ashley (Anne Heche) who has taken to catering events alongside her partner Lisa (Alicia Silverstone) who she plans on having a child with.
It’s at one of these very functions that Veronica and Ashley’s paths cross – and much to their surprise, they have a history, having been to school together. With Ashley resentful at her current situation, the gloating presence of her old friend proves to be too much, and they get into a quite savage fight – and it’s an altercation that has quite severe consequences, while America is on the brink of war.
Regardless of how it sounds, given Veronica cuts a reprehensible figure and Ashley seems somewhat down on her luck, Catfight has been crafted in such a way that you don’t take a side, as what transpires after the initial fight finds you conflicted, eventually disliking them both equally. This works well for when the pair square up to one another, as all you want to see is them both beat the crap out of each other, which makes the scenes far more enjoyable than if you had an investment in either side. Instead we can sit back and just watch it unfold without any emotional attachment of any kind.
The fights (yes, plural) are hugely entertaining too, with a brutal sound design, as you hear the thud of every punch. It all gets so overstated and ridiculous that you expect to see cartoon like images saying ‘pow!’ or bam!’ adorn the screen. This is emblematic of a film that has a playful nature, which is wise, for had it been any more naturalistic it would be simply disturbing. It needs that irreverence in order to work, because this is a raw, savage piece of cinema, both narratively and visually, so to take the sting out of the picture allows for us to enjoy it.
Catfight does get a little tedious as we progress towards the latter stages, and grows immensely predictable in the process. But flaws aside here’s a film that should be praised for how unique an endeavour it is – to feature two middle aged women viciously fighting one another incessantly is seldom seen in cinema. This is a film that doesn’t just pass The Bechdel Test, it punches, bruises and pulls the hair out of it.
Catfight is released on March 10th.