Produced by Gigi Graff, Greg Newman
Written and Directed by Onur Tukel
Starring Sandra Oh, Anne Heche,
Alicia Silverstone, Amy Hill,
Myra Lucretia Taylor, Ariel Kavoussi,
Craig Bierko, Dylan Baker
If nothing else, Catfight is outrageous.
Writer/Director Onur Tukel introduces us to two former college nemeses who reunite as adults to pick up where they left off – being catty, presumptuous, arrogant and physically violent.
What exactly happened between them in college? We may never know but it almost doesn’t matter — this movie is destined to be a “guilty pleasure” flick in the indie category.
The bitchfest is carried out by an artfully restrained Sandra Oh as entitled trophy wife Veronica, and Anne Heche as Ashley, a cranky lesbian artist looking for her big break. In SoHo, Veronica lives in luxury with her husband and son. In contrast, Ashley is getting by with her partner, Lisa – played by the grossly underutilized Alicia Silverstone – in less frilly digs.
Things kick into high gear when Ashley is mournfully making extra cash bartending at a ritzy party where a hammered Veronica is in attendance. Their tense reintroduction to one another leads to a balls-out, ass-kicking in a stairwell. The fight is vicious, long and directed grit. When it’s over, one woman walks out bloodied and one is left in a coma for two years.
Vengeance is in the air when the women do meet again and another fight ensues. It is even harder fought and more malevolent than the last one and again, one of the women lands comatose in the hospital.
It soon becomes clear that at its core, Catfight is actually a satirical commentary on our current political climate disguised as dark, dark comedy. As each woman awakens from her coma, she finds out that her life is in total shambles. War and politics have left each with devastating aftermath and there are obvious hints on how Tukel feels about foreign affairs, domestic policy and America’s healthcare system. In these instances the film is a little farcical but then, one might say so is our current government.
Oh offers a strong performance as a woman who has to rebuild her life and learn hard lessons, playing well on the audience’s sympathy and becoming more likable (or maybe just more tolerable) as the film goes on. However it seems harder to separate Heche’s character from Heche’s own nutty, public persona and the way she talks through a clenched jaw for the whole movie puts her across as angry and utterly unlikable for the duration.
The supporting cast is sufficient and peppered with a few stand-outs. Dylan Baker, who plays the “coma doctor” (is that a thing?) makes his time on screen memorable with under-the-radar one-liners and a shockingly hilarious poop joke. Craig Bierko has a great cameo as a TV show host that opens each act of the film with political commentary in order to set up the current world order. Titus Burgess appears in a part forcing him to hold back a bit more than we’re used to from his Kimmy Schmidt role.
In the end, any awkwardness or disdain for the characters aside, there’s still something hugely satisfying about watching a couple of bitches slug it out on screen. You can’t deny the originality of it – we don’t get to see the ladies throw down like this too often.
And really, their petty fighting and drawn out grudge matches are rather metaphorical for these times we live in. Catfight is out on March 3 in theaters and on demand. It may not be worthy of a movie ticket but definitely right on par for an iTunes download.