Onur Tukel’s Catfight is a brilliant concept stuck in a largely dull feature lacking nuance that finds two Hollywood greats, Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, doing their best to appear unhinged on screen. It’s a strange and unabashedly cheap affair that is sure to spark discussion, but it falls painfully short of deserving praise or recommendation.
Veronica (Oh) and Ashley (Heche) are two former college friends who have not seen or spoken to one another for over a decade. Veronica is now a stay at home mother with a wealthy husband while Ashley, always the more creative of the two, is working catering gigs with her partner to make ends meet as she struggles to sell her paintings. Both seem to hate their lives for different reasons, but when they bump into each other at a party Ashley is working for Veronica’s husband they soon turn their rage on one another.
I mean that literally, by the way. The title Catfight is not a metaphor, but rather a very succinct description of what happens in each of this film’s three acts. Spread over four years, Ashley and Veronica cannot resist the urge to see one another destroyed. They fight in stairwells, art galleries, junkyards, and a wide variety of locales in between with complete disregard for their surroundings. They beat one another to a pulp and walk away only to wait for the other to inevitably seek revenge. It’s a vicious cycle that threatens to drive them each further and further away from the lives they want, but neither one can admit defeat for reasons that are never really clear.
In fact, there is a lot about Catfight that is never made clear. We never really know why these two characters were driven apart, nor why they fixate their rage on one another once they meet again. We never learn a thing about either of them aside from what is shown on screen. Their lives before and after are a total mystery, and everything happening in the present is presented with zero depth or explanation. They are miserable, plain and simple, and blind to the plight of everyone other than themselves.
To make matters worse the film attempts to inject socio-political commentary on the state of our nation today through a series of cutaways to a late night talk show host detailing recent world events in between the use of a fart machine. It’s a device that becomes more integral to the story as the film progresses, but it is executed in such a way that it almost feels like an afterthought created to justify changes with cast and location. If true, it is one of the most awkward presentations of ‘punch-up’ material in recent memory.
There is also the matter of the film’s music, which is largely pulled from material currently available in the public domain. Instead of framing the battles as epic, thrilling, or tense bouts, the accompaniment shared can best be likened to “Yakety Sax.” This would not be a problem if the tone matched the absurdity of the song choice, but the two could not be more different. It’s as if you’re hearing the soundtrack for a different film altogether, and the juxtaposition between the two completely removes all connection you have to the events on screen.
So much goes wrong in Catfight that it is almost hard to believe the film made it to release. For every good intention there are three bad decisions, and those decisions are what we see on screen. All the elements needed to make a great movie are present here, but they never once gel. The resulting mess is just another pointless exercise in exaggerated narcissism that fails to be funny or insightful. It’s a spectacular misfire that might become a cult classic, but otherwise will be nothing more than a blemish on the resume of everyone involved.