Catfight (2016)

Director: Onur Tukel
Writer: Onur Tukel
Cast: Sandra Oh, Anne Heche, Alicia Silverstone, Amy Hill, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Ariel Kavoussi, Damian Young, Stephen Gevedon, Giullian Yao Gioiello, Tituss Burgess, Peter Jacobson
Seen on: 10.9.2021

Content Note: alcoholism, misogyny, (critical treatment of) queermisia

Vanessa (Sandra Oh) has a good life, a husband (Damian Young), a son (Giullian Yao Gioiello) and loads of money. So what if she has a bit of drinking problem, too? One night at a party, she runs into Ashley (Anne Heche). Ashley and Vanessa used to be in college together and hated each other back then. And, really, nothing has changed. Ashley is an artist now, helping out her caterer girlfriend Lisa (Alicia Silverstone), and horrified at the bourgeois life Vanessa leads, while Vanessa doesn’t take Ashley’s art seriously and finds her anti-establishment rants ridiculous. Their simple small talk quickly turns into a series of barbs and finally things get so out of hand that their lives are forever changed by the encounter.

Catfight, to me, was an utterly bleak and joyless film. I just couldn’t bring myself to like it.

The film poster showing Ashley (Anne Heche) holding Vanessa (Sandra Oh) in a chokehold.

I saw the cast of the film and decided to watch it, despite the title. Catfight is such a misogynist way of talking about fights between women, calling the film that seemed like a bad idea. But in that regard, I was honestly positively surprised: the film is all about taking the many ways women have learned to mask their hostilities (because women, it is said, aren’t aggressive, they aren’t angry, they aren’t brutal) and pull the mask off, translating them into simple physical violence.

The trouble is that those fight scenes are played to be funny, including exaggerated sound effects. And it’s just not fun to watch two people so thoroughly beat the shit out of each other. I mean, I enjoy good fight scenes – for their athleticism and their aesthetics, not for their violence. And especially not if the film wants me to laugh about it. So those scenes are supremely uncomfortable. And either that was the intent all along, then it doesn’t really fit with the humorous tone of the film, or the discomfort was unintentional and they honestly wanted me to laugh about it. In both cases, it’s a failure.

Ashley (Anne Heche) and Lisa (Alicia Silverstone) cuddling.

Oh, Heche and Silverstone are great, though. It’s a pity, though,that both Ashley and Vanessa are completely unlikeable. I don’t like films where I am actively rooting for the protagonists to get the worst possible things, but the film made me do it. The only one who I found remotely likeable and relatable was Lisa (though there is a touch of bimisia at the end when it comes to her character), and she is not that much in the film, unfortunately.

There were several times where I considered just turning off the film. I’m not sure why I didn’t. Probably more out of lethargy than anything else. But I should have done it – just turn it off and walk away.

Vanessa (Sandra Oh) smiling with a drink in hand.

Summarizing: no thanks.

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