Friday, February 24, 2017

Champagne Wishes & Caviar Hate Crimes

Let's just get this right out of the way - Catfight is not sexist. I've seen that accusation being bandied about and it strikes me, in the face of what Catfight is, as an incorrigibly lazy way to look at what director Onur Tukel's going after here. Catfight is aggressive (full stop) at triggering accusations of sexism, yes. But with a purpose, to my eyeballs and brain. A slightly exhausting purpose, but a purpose nonetheless. 

Catfight stars Anne Heche and Sandra Oh as former college frenemies who stumble upon each other years later and with startling immediacy begin beating the shit out of each other. It plays as a trio of hate sonatas spread across an increasingly surreal landscape - they meet, they clash, they meet, they clash, they meet, they clash, each time altering each other's fortunes irrevocably and with terrifically cruel abandon while the world teeters on the brink of a strange political insanity.

I thought about the TV series The Comeback a lot while watching Catfight, and the reaction The Comeback got from a lot of critics when it came out - that the discomfort comedy we'd grown to love from men like Larry David played too "harsh" when it was happening to a woman. Nobody wants to see lovely Lisa Kudrow be made to feel like such garbage! And even worse, sometimes even deserve it and bring it upon herself? The horror.

Catfight runs on the same sort of wavelength, only dialed up to bonkers. A cute little sexy fight between two gals is supposed to be so much fun. Look how they make cute little sexy kitten noises at each other! But what if those ladies were just kind of awful and obnoxious  (the word "shrill" comes to mind, as it must in such a context) and what if instead of little girl slaps we got a full-on drag-out bloody no-holds brawl? 

Catfight is basically a Jean Claude Van Damme story told with Nicole Holofcener characters, and it's... unsettling. Deeply. It's not as LOL-funny as Tukel's two previous films because it relies even harder on making us uncomfortable than Summer of Blood (my review) and Applesauce (my review) did - miscarriage is a rough punchline to give a crowd! 

But man Tukel's got a voice I find riveting and endearingly odd, and there's something profoundly liberating about how far he allows Sandra Oh and Anne Heche to go full bore harsh with their performances. It's more of an experiment and a provocation than anything else, but good god who doesn't want to slap the living shit out of politeness every so often?

Watch the trailer for Catfight right here
The film opens on March 3rd.

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