Seeing Sandra Oh and Anne Heche topline a film together is a rare treat and so it is that Catfight is an entertaining coming together of two actresses who have put in solid shifts throughout their careers getting some meat to chew on in a darkly comic time which has issues but remains worth an hour and a half of your time.
Taking place over 3 separate time periods, this tells the stories of Veronica (Oh) and Sally (Heche), two women who despite going to college together, went on two very different paths in life, one marrying a rich businessman and the other becoming an artist. Three fights, as per the title, take their lives in very different directions, each act ending with a surprisingly brutal encounter complete with hefty punches and chunky sound design emphasising every one. The frustrations and sadness in each of their lives is given full bloom as they take it all out on each other in a way which contrasts nicely with the pretty straight indie comedy-drama material being shown through the rest of the runtime.
These scenes are more problematic than the set-piece fights, writer-director Onur Tukel wearing his politics on his sleeve and rather messily introducing some jokes about the state of the world which feel too much like pandering to the film’s intended audience. A recurring motif of a late-night TV host talking about the state of the fictional war feels forced and an odd side moment about trees being named after presidential candidates feels primed for some audience members to laugh along in a kind of smug fog regarding their own political leanings.
Heche and Oh however do great work throughout, Heche playing with the audience’s sympathies well as an artist who finds success in depicting despair and finds herself becoming a rather less empathetic person as a result. Oh gets less to do, her character feeling like she has less material to work with, but her character’s transformation perhaps feels more rewarding. The side characters are somewhat more a mixed bag, Alicia Silverstone as Heche’s partner is a welcome presence, but Ariel Kavoussi as her assistant feels like a one-note joke just there to enact a twist in the tale in the third act.
Catfight is a small, maybe somewhat slight film which doesn’t get everything right but is more than worth a watch thanks to two very solid central performances and an odd USP at its core.