Catfight

 

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Sandra Oh and Anne Heche fight it out in this excessively offbeat film.

 
Catfight

There will be blood: Anne Heche and Sandrah Oh

 

Onur Tukel is writer, director and editor of this American indie movie which must surely count as one of the year's weirdest cinema offerings. It starts with the advantage of two very able leading players in Sandra Oh and Anne Heche who may be said to give it their all but just what Tukel was aiming at is increasingly difficult to decide.

 

The film's initial notion seems straightforward: at a party in New York, Veronica (Oh) and Ashley (Heche) come face-to-face years after a friendship at college had ended badly. It's a scene that plays out as one of comic embarrassment not out of keeping with the satirical tone apparent from the outset. In that mode the film's targets are diverse, taking in both an American president keen on military engagements in the Middle East from which Veronica's rich husband looks set to benefit and also changing trends in the art world (Ashley is a painter whose work is seen as either expressing or exploiting contemporary angst). But then Catfight takes the turn for which, if remembered at all, it will be famous: a partially drunk Veronica hits Ashley and a no holds barred fight ensues.

 

Tukel's way with this scene is to turn up the volume and to let the blood flow, but if this feels consciously exaggerated it is anything but comic. Thereafter, the film becomes on the one hand a series of intercut scenes from the lives of Veronica and Ashley which often feel sketch-like even if plot developments are involved. That applies, for example, to a subplot reminiscent of Nasty Baby (2015) in which Ashley with the approval of her lesbian partner, Lisa (Alicia Silverstone), becomes pregnant through a donor. On the other hand, rather more engagingly there are neat comic echoes set up in the second half which become apparent when Ashley has experiences that parallel what has happened to Veronica earlier.

 

But, if some lines are all the more comic for taking us by surprise, the first all-out fight scene is not the last and the film's return to this element retains its vicious character. For that matter, alongside the satire we have such conflicting elements as the death of Veronica's teenage son (Giullian Yao Gioiello) who volunteers to join up and fight. As one would expect, the cast is able and Sandra Oh especially, making one of her all too infrequent cinema appearances, provides a strong centre for the film. But one is left with a film of diverse ingredients which, be it intended as black comedy or as a despairing comic slant on the state of the world, never coheres in any way that makes it meaningful as a whole. However, anybody who delights in cinema weirdness for its own sake will certainly find it here.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Sandra Oh, Anne Heche, Alicia Silverstone, Amy Hill, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Ariel Kavoussi, Damian Young, Giullian Yao Gioiello, Stephen Gevedon, Tituss Burgess, Dylan Baker, Craig Bierko.

 

Dir Onur Tukel, Pro Gigi Graff and Grey Newman, Screenplay Onur Tukel, Ph Zöe White, Pro Des Estee Braverman, Ed Onur Tukel, Costumes Charlie LaRose.

 

MPI Media Group-Arrow Films.
95 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 17 March 2017. Cert. 15.