Catfight July 5, 2017
In their years apart, they’ve transformed. Veronica has become an upper-class housewife who may as well have her red wines attached to her like an IV drip; Ashley has turned into a typical starving artist who supports herself and her lover (a scene-stealing Alicia Silverstone) through a catering service which acts as the catalyst for her and Veronica’s bumping into each other in the first place.
Things, apparently, did not end on good terms. It takes no time before both women are trading insults so remarkably cutting we’re not so sure we’d like to pass them off as mere passive aggression. Moments go by and both progressively get drunker (despite the fact that Veronica’s husband, who is the center of the party, warns her not to, and despite the fact that Ashley is on the job), leading to a horrific, bloodied brawl on the stairwell that leaves Veronica in a coma for more than two years.
This leads Catfight to reveal itself as a deliriously gonzo comedy wherein anything can happen. Upon Veronica’s awakening does she discover that the globe has plunged into a third world war, that both her husband and son have died (her son volunteered for military service; her husband shot himself to escape his misery), and that she’s penniless for the first time in her life. Meanwhile, Ashley has become a phenomenal success, her artwork, once mocked for being too dark and twisted, insanely popular thanks to its sudden cultural relevance. All understandably makes Veronica famished for some sort of revenge.
The movie continues this cycle over and over again. After a brawl, one of the women is left in a coma. They wake up years later, discover they’ve lost everything, and desires vengeance. She sorta kinda gets her life back together. She finds the other woman, beats the shit out of her, and leaves her counterpart in a coma. The “victim” then wakes up from her fist-induced slumber and embarks on the same journey.
The tables turn like clockwork, and we’re pressed to wonder whether maybe the leads of Catfight are actually dead and just wandering through a quasi-purgatory where they have to live through the same scenario like Bill Murray did 24 years ago in Groundhog Day.
But Catfight is so wonderfully bananas that we see it as some cockeyed comic strip brought to the screen. These women are such unfathomably awful people they can only be compared to more down-to-earth renditions of Stan Lee villains. The many catfights they have throughout the entirety of the movie are not hair pulling extravaganzas enhanced by the male gaze. They are all-out fist fights that mimic the Vivica Fox assisted skirmish in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), one showdown even supplemented by a hammer.
Why make a film in which the characters are detestable monsters who seem to only want to destroy each other? Writer/director Onur Tukel seems more intrigued by the more darkly comedic possibilities in store. But underneath it all does it seem probable that Catfight is one long allegory for the intrinsic competition that seems to exist between so many women, only the backstabbing and the verbal lacerations behind closed doors are now represented by very real brawls that might have otherwise existed only in the imagination. It also seems eager to provide Oh and Heche with interesting roles they’re rarely given opportunity to undertake, given the minority of juicy parts available for women of a certain age.
The movie feels much longer than its 96 minutes, and that’s likely because its premise doesn’t much change and it does, sooner or later, begin to lose its freshness. But since there aren’t many films like Catfight resting in the indie zeitgeist as of late and since its leading ladies are so magnificent, an imperfect output is not necessarily enough to derail everything. This is a brutal, wicked action comedy with an unusual capacity to spew out venom. Here, the acerbic flavors taste good. B+
1 Hr., 36 Mins.
atfight (2017) is the cinematic opposite of Taylor Swift’s hypocritical mantra that women should never tear other women down: in this sublimely misanthropic black comedy, a pair of women live to do little else besides tear the other down. In the film, the focused-on rivalry lives between Veronica (Sandra Oh) and Ashley (Anne Heche), college frenemies who unexpectedly reunite at a fancy dinner party.