TIFF 2016: 'Catfight' - The Gloves Come Off in No Holds Barred Satire
by Erica Mann
September 15, 2016
It has often been said, "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" It is true that our friends can be are harshest critics; and sometimes you have to wonder why they were your friends in the first place. Catfight is what would happen if you confronted that friend and decided to smack them like a WWE Diva instead of talking it out like grown adults. Catfight, starring Anne Heche and Sandra Oh, written and directed by Onur Tukel – which just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival – is a strange story about a karmic cycle that not only escalates to violent physical altercations, but shows the repercussions of the aftermath.
The film introduces Veronica (Oh), who is married to a successful man, has a talented son, lives the life of luxury, and drinks ample amounts of wine. Her old college friend Ashley (Heche), on the other hand, is a struggling artist who is trying to sell her series of disturbingly morbid artwork; all while trying to appease her exasperated girlfriend Lisa (Alicia Silverstone). One night during an event, the two estranged friends bump into each other and it is very clear that there is still unresolved issues. A few minutes later, insanity ensues and the two are brutally beating each other up in the stairwell of the apartment complex.
Now, when I say they're "beating each other up", I'm not saying that they are fighting lightly or dramatically slapping each other. These extensive fights (which happen several times throughout the film) are closed fist knock outs, with cartoon-like sound effects. These fights escalate so quickly that it catches the audience off-guard each and every time. The great thing about Catfight is that not only is it a dark comedy, but it's also a social commentary on hot button contemporary topics such as healthcare, war, the line between wealth and happiness, and consumerism. It's quite amazing how the film was able to hit on all those notes with such a broad brush stroke.
And yet, all of these things do not take away from the satirical nuances of the movie. You watch as these women go through their own problems which are caused by each altercation. As one tries to pick up the pieces of their broken life – the other one is thriving – until they both meet up and the vicious cycle starts all over again. The film does start to lose steam during the last half hour. Even though watching the follow up to these characters is interesting – one can only watch people knock each other out for so long. The well-choreographed fights are so precise that it feels like they didn't know when to stop. There were also several false ends to this film that made me wonder if it was ever going to wrap up.
Visually, the film is very simple, which really makes the fight scenes standout on their own. Heche and Oh put their all into these brawls and you feel exhausted for them. I believe that this movie in particular will be very divisive, because it's not the type of movie that everyone is going to love, not just because of the violence. However, Catfight is a quirky, ridiculous satire with a lot to say. If you are looking for something different and off-the-wall then definitely check this film out when it heads your way.
Erica's TIFF Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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