Despite possessing a bizarre plot, and ludicrous arc for its characters, Catfight seemingly has a lot to say. Writer and director Onur Tukel takes aim at the fragility of life, our careers, our relationships, how obsessed people can become with rivalries instead of focusing on ourselves, and details how life can change in an instant, all of which he presents to us through the prism of two bitter rivals repeatedly fighting and jostling over a period of several years.
Yet, in the end, what Catfight actually has to say doesn't amount to much. To be fair to it, Catfight dolls out the requisite amount of absurdist violence to suffice, but even though it endlessly teases a profound satirical message it proves to be all talk.
The fight scenes are a crazy, over-the-top, enjoyable ride to behold, though, with Anne Heche and Sandra Oh going full pelt into their bouts of aggression and rage, which results in two separate two-year stints in a coma. The films kicks off with Veronica Salt (Sandra Oh) preparing for her husband's big business party, where it will be announced that his company is set to profit off of the war on terror in the hundreds of millions.
Unfortunately, on the way to the soiree, he reveals that he's unhappy with her drinking problem, and insists that she stays off the booze throughout the night. She can't resist, though, and during her trip to the bar she recognizes her former college pal Ashley Miller (Anne Heche), who is a struggling artist that is also working as a waitress to pay the bills. They soon start baiting each other, and then the verbal barbs turn into fisticuffs, which results in an all-out brawl that the duo will partake in for several years to come.
Catfight is at its best when it works itself into a frenzy, whether its through the scenes of physical violence or angry outbursts, with Sandra Oh and Anne Heche able to paper over its cracks thanks to their fully committed performances, even though their characters are stick thin with substance. But it's in between these jostles that it quickly tails off, as its attempts to satire art, capitalism, hospitals, and a variety of other topics lack the gumption or punch to really land.
For a supposed comedy, I produced a smile on a handful of occasions. Even those were the sort of smiles I only reserve for a joke I misheard, but which the teller is now loudly guffawing at. Sandra Oh is able to bring some poignancy with a particularly brutal sub-plot, but that's never able to truly pull you into the film. Instead, it feels more of a taste of what could have been if it hadn't been so preoccupied with making a number of vague, ultimately meaningless, points.
It also doesn't help that for a long period of the film Catfight's main characters are utterly loathsome, and they constantly block you from ever building an investment or connection with the film. When coupled with its failure to land the knockout satirical punches it endlessly threatens, you quickly realize that Catifght lacks and won't ever produce the savvy or bombast to provoke full-blown enthusiasm.
Yet, at the same time, those involved are so aggressively divided that Catifght feels oddly prescient. It even possesses a barb towards Donald Trump that will either provoke a standing ovation or a round of boos, depending on your allegiance. At the same you're always just about interested enough to want to see how it all ends, too. When it does you'll feel neither overly enthused nor disappointed just mediocrely content, like after you've eaten a solid bowl of soup. Considering the part tribal, part intellectual piece Onur Tukel was obviously trying to create with Catfight, such placidness is actually probably the harshest response his film can receive.
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