Catfight repetitively punches out middle class entitlement whilst leaving heavy-handed political bruises. Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated and welcome to Catfight! In the red corner today, we have a self-entitled casual alcoholic who parasitically lives off of her husband’s wealth whilst cynically crushing the aspirations of her son, Veronica! And in the blue corner, a lesbian skittish artist who paints dark apocalyptic visions yet unable to sell her visceral artwork which strains her relationship and leads her to verbally obliterating her assistant, Ashley! Who will emerge victorious after this violent three-round brawl of nihilistic self-pride and greed? Veronica? Ashley? Or perhaps the government? Let’s find out, round one commences now!
Tukel’s aggressive black comedy consumes the physicality of a fist fight and imposes an applicable sociopolitical subtextual layer. From a social perspective, these two women literally punch, kick and head butt the contemptuousness out of them, eventually decimating their lives in the process through the significance of a comatose state. Gradually, through the loss of their financial wellbeing, they begin to appreciate the familial and emotional tendencies that life offers, indicating that fortune and materialism obscured the elements that were truly important. Subtly depicted through the occasional emotional fragility that exudes from their soulless glares when reflecting on vital aspects that have now been relinquished, particularly Veronica when watching her son’s video tapes. A gentle exposed weakness to their unlikeable personas.
Tukel however comfortably implements a political critique on the post-9/11 Middle Eastern war, emphasising the corrosive behaviour of middle-class society profiting off of the war. Veronica’s husband implementing expensive defence systems and Ashley’s sanguinary artwork rampantly becoming popular due to the visceral resemblance of the current brutality. Both exploiting the war on terror for financial stability. Tukel, whose screenplay explicitly references the ‘16 electoral candidates as deciduous trees and subsequently comments on their personalities (with Trump being “an idiot”), makes his political agenda obvious through not-so-subtle remarks. Whilst understandably agreeable, it does diminish the semi-satirical nature of his dialogue, which for the most part, was intelligently written.
Unfortunately these subtextual layers cannot masquerade the repetitive nature of Tukel’s cartoonish plot, relying on a continuous “Family Guy” inspired punch up to traverse the eventual predictability. The first fist fight on the stairwell certainly exerted a violent presence, with the blatant theatrical punches and kicks garnering a level of sophisticated entertainment (ignoring the same “hit” sound effect for every altercation). When the second fight commences in the gallery, the inevitable predictability seeps into the cracks. Finally concluding of the elongated climactic brawl, which undoubtedly felt endless, and the humour behind these monotonously exaggerated punches had dissipated. It’s a one-joke feature, that is copied and pasted three times.
Regardless of Oh and Heche’s extraordinarily versatile performances, their characters were detached and enthusiastically unlikeable. Understandably, that’s the film’s purpose. However it indisputably produces a dense barrier around these individuals, consequently weakening the raw emotional elements. Aside from Veronica’s son and Ashley’s assistant to a degree, nearly every character was detestable. Silverstone as Ashley’s lover, realising the manifestation of nightmarish parental preparation by remarking on Wi-Fi as a catalyst for mental deficiency, was unappealing. Veronica’s husband was obnoxiously rude. As was the comatose doctor. As was the nurse. Whilst they all churn out fantastic performances, it overwhelmed the satire to an absurd magnitude.
Underneath the general hostility and hyperbolically mean-spirited characters though, Catfight does perform several narrative high-kicks that connect from a contextual perspective. Tukel’s dark humour and the ever-changing central performances unquestionably supplies three rounds of swift entertainment, taking jabs at poisonous privilege. Unfortunately the repetitious structure and heavy-handed politics prevent Catfight from being a true knockout.