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article imageReview: TIFF 2016: ‘Catfight’ wrestles its way to the comedic top Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 14, 2016 in Entertainment
‘Catfight’ is a hilarious movie about two women who literally and repeatedly try to beat each other to death following a chance post-college reunion. It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
High school and college reunions are events viewed with either great anticipation or extreme dread. One’s response is often influenced by their lot in life post-graduation. The successful ones can’t wait to flaunt their good fortune, while the others fear the moment everyone asks, “So, what’ve you been up to?” But at least an organized event provides some time to prepare — it’s those unexpected run-ins with people from your past that can really throw someone for a loop. In Catfight, two women find they have a lot of unresolved animosity for each other in spite of going their different ways decades earlier.
Veronica (Sandra Oh) is a married, stay-at-home mom with a teenage son and a drinking problem. Her husband profits from war contracts, which keeps them in relative riches, and, to her dismay, her son is an aspiring artist. Ashley (Anne Heche) is a struggling painter who has trouble attracting buyers for her aggressive, political commentary art. Her girlfriend (Alicia Silverstone) is tired of being the sole provider, while Ashley’s assistant (Ariel Kavoussi) endures her unwarranted abuse regularly. By chance the two women end up at the same party and sparks — and punches — almost immediately begin to fly. Spanning four or five years and three rounds of no-holds-bar fighting, these two women continue to dig under the rock at which most people stop at the bottom.
The narrative is divided into two, evenly distributed narratives, frequently switching between them so they’re conveyed parallel to each other. Thus in the opening act, it’s revealed both women’s partners are unhappy in their respective relationships due to their selfish choices and inability to put their families first. Yet when the two meet, they’re equally determined not to let the other woman find out about their recently identified issues. Similarly, when they awake in the hospital, their experiences are almost identical, though with somewhat different outcomes. Both women are on rollercoasters that rise and fall at different intervals of the film, humorously demonstrating how absurd and “unfair” life can be.
The backdrop of the film is a war in the Middle East, which apparently dominates all political and artistic commentary. However writer/director Onur Tukel has a lot of fun with this somewhat fictional conflict, using a gimmicky television pundit to relay and comment on the latest military news. They take aim at the “Terror Alert” colour scheme, reintroducing the draft to feed the war machine and exorbitant military spending at the expense of other services. And then to distract and entertain, each episode of this flashy, political TV show ends with a grown man in a diaper dancing around the stage and farting. There’s also reference to the current presidential nominees, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, in which their names and personality traits are assigned to inanimate objects.
The impressive fight sequences appear genuine. There’s no hair pulling or eye-scratching; Veronica and Ashley punch and kick each other ruthlessly in an effort to inflict real pain. The choreography in this film definitely gives the female WWE wrestlers a run for their money in both believability and brutality. The clashes are enhanced by the exaggerated comic book movie sounds that overlay every hit and the often surreal response to would-be fatal blows á la Death Becomes Her.
In spite of being directed by a man, Tukel is first to recognize the film as a female-powered project propelled to by the wonderful women in front of and behind the camera.
The film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. Don’t miss the rest of our TIFF 2016 coverage.
Director: Onur Tukel
Starring: Sandra Oh, Anne Heche and Alicia Silverstone
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