Satire is a complex undertaking that can easily misfire or offend for the wrong reasons. Onur Tukel's savage social critique almost breaks away the pack, but is undone by its heavy handed approach. Featuring two seething lead performances, brutal slapstick combat, and a playfully accusatory script, Catfight is a bloody dissent on the hateful pageantry of differences and a surprisingly pacifistic plea for tolerance.
An alcoholic socialite and a bitter starving artist violently collide several times throughout their lives, stacking ill-conceived vendettas upon dissonant affronts that ultimately consume both women's realities with the red fire of vengeance. Sandra Oh (socialite) and Anne Heche (artist) star as the blood crossed haters. One of the film's strengths is in how each woman begins on the opposite end of the spectrum and their command of the material makes the viewer despise them equally. This is Catfight's blatant central message. Both women transition between transgressor and victim, merging into a Persona-lite amalgam of societal discord that plays with the commonalities that dwell beneath the media sensationalism of a war obsessed culture. This theme will no doubt turn off many viewers, and this is most certainly by design.
Alicia Silverstone sneaks in a delicious supporting turn as Heche's partner who desperately wants a child. She has some of the film's best dialogue, bringing Heche's deep seeded irritations to the surface with ease. Myra Taylor and Ariel Kavoussi round out the cast as subordinates in each woman's life whose station and relevance change in the aftermath of each confrontation, another chin check to remind the viewer of the importance of mutual respect.
Zoe White's cinematography harnesses the mayhem with uncomfortable close ups of the carnage framed in lonely staircases, derelict parking lots, and tranquil forests, driving home Tukel's point about the desecration of personal harmony via insult and supposition. Each battle is scored by marching band anthems, enhancing the farcical, almost surreal quality of the duels, whose ultimate purpose is to highlight the absurdity of their existence. Tristan Baylis's punchy sound editing has a cartoonish quality that is the perfect companion to Balintz Pinczehelyi's feral stunt choreography, using both actresses and their stunt doubles to deliriously painful ends.
Available now for digital rental, Catfight is an extremely obvious film, but an important one none the less. While it is saddening that its message is required, its humorous approach to healing a fractured society is admirable. If you're interested in a darkly comedic morality play by way of two award winning actresses beating the hell out of each other, this one will have you smiling for the duration.
Spread the bloody violence!