The new film “Catfight” written and directed by Onur Tukel (Applesauce) is one I had not heard of until seeing a couple reviews appear in Letterboxd. Upon seeing the poster for the film, which has one woman bloody and in a choke hold from another woman, I immediately laughed and dismissed the film as being a crazy low-grade film. However, I saw some ratings and decided to look further into it. “The rivalry between two former college friends comes to a head when they both attend the same glamorous event.” Then I saw Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy, Sideways) stars, who is always good and what she does, and it’s listed as a comedy. This is not what I expected at all and so my interest was set and decided to give it a watch, and I’m glad I did.
The film is played out against the backdrop of a presidential election and an imminent war in the middle-east. Sandra Oh plays Veronica, a wife, and mother that loves her wine a bit too much and is not happy about her sons’ artistic dreams. Her husband is a rich man who profits from the war through defense contracts and is embarrassed about Veronica’s drinking. Ashley, played by Anne Heche, is a struggling artist who makes bloody gruesome paintings. Ashley is catering for an event which happens to be for Veronica’s husband. He does request Veronica to not drink or go home. It is not long before she does hit the wine. Eventually, Veronica and Ashley bump into one another and when the two women reconnect it is quite uncomfortable and can see why these two parted ways. It isn’t long before the two meet again in a stairwell in a sour state and the gloves are off and the two punch, choke and toss each other around until Veronica ends up in a coma and does not awaken for two years. When she does, everything she has his gone. On the other hand, Ashley’s grim artwork is now a hot commodity due to the state of the world America is at war. However, it is not long before Ashley suffers the exact same fate as Veronica after another lengthy fight between the two happen. It is the parallels between these two women’s lives that make this interesting. Both reached a high in their lives in status and in being completely unlikeable before their fall.
The choreography of the fight scenes is done very well. The fights between the two women are lengthy and this is not a scratch and hair pulling fight, the women throw punches that constantly deliver. However, there is a light-hearted tone to the fights where the sounds of the punches are like the amplified sound of a boxer punching their bag. This helps to not take things too seriously as these women punch each other with no sense of self-defense. Including soundtracks ranging from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony to Edvard Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King as background to the fighting is a great touch as well.
The actresses are fantastic. Sandra Oh really stands out delivering the highs and lows of her character, physically and emotionally, as she starts off as the embarrassing trophy wife who likes to drink then eventually to one who is humbled after her battle. Ann Heche is great as well as the struggling artist who achieves a rise in fame but she is in fact as brutal in personality as she is with her paintings. The helium sounding art assistant to Ashley is played brilliantly by Ariel Kavoussi, who is as innocent as the bunnies she draws and seemingly happy despite being the victim of Ashley’s verbal abuse. The surprise for me here is Alicia Silverstone who plays Lisa, Ashley’s girlfriend. It was great to see her again and there is a scene from a baby shower which Alicia delivers exceptionally well, and reminds me of the Alicia of old, and is probably my favorite scene.
There are a few negatives of things getting a bit tiresome, such as the continuous appearance of a fart machine gag that appears after a talk show host makes any grim state of the world while people break out in laughter. Also, though the fights are the big thing in the film as the world is in an ugly state and these two continue to lay it into one another, when it comes to the third fight it seems it’s gone on just a bit too long.
Catfight can be a bit violent with the fighting for some, but it is funny, well written and the actresses are amazing. Overall, it is a fun ride that Onur Tukel delivers and it is well worth taking.