Glasgow Film Festival Review – ‘Catfight’ (2016)

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As a piece of absurdist film-making ‘Catfight‘ does leaps and bounds in pushing it’s characters to the absolute limits of their vengeance. In choreographed fight scenes, Veronica (Sandra Oh) and Ashley (Anne Heche) beat each other, in what seems like a last resort to exert social status. You have all been there; you have seen an acquaintance you used to go to school with on Facebook, or at a party, and past arguments have surfaced. This film takes that idea to an absolute extreme.

A massive flaw in ‘Catfight‘ is that it deals almost exclusively in binary opposition; the characters being forces for each side. It’s all about social status, obviously pitting creativity against academia, bohemia against the city, and free thinking against careerism.

Politically it comes from an interesting place. It is in part a comment on the war on terror and the Bush administration. It places some emphasis on the anxieties surrounding that conflict, and the characters are, at times, genuinely concerned about the implications it has for their fellow Americans. At the same time, it mocks certain groups of people too. Throughout there are clips from a fictional satire show on TV, which the characters, in turn, delight in or dismiss. This TV show is more nonsensical than the film itself. There’s a lack of clarity in where we are angled in politics.

Catfight‘ has quirky humour which is, in places, refreshing. Once again taking this to the extreme, there are jokes that get a bit exhausting. It is similar to millennial sitcom ‘Broad City’. The development of the characters through throw-away reoccurring gags is exactly the same here too.

The fight scenes are well choreographed and take cues from martial arts films, and ‘Kill Bill‘. The comedy punches and kicks audio effects are a little unbearable. It’s certainly not going to be for everyone. When these scenes play out, there are a lot of artistic decisions being made. The setting up of scenarios and shots is smart. The locations are also deliberately harsh and take the domestic argument almost outside of everyday reality.

Catfight‘ plays with ideas around audience expectation, repetition and self-awareness. There are some more sophisticated nods. There’s a funny comment on the most recent presidential candidates for example. For the majority of the narrative, however, the themes are just that bit too immature. Every time there is what feels like a logical discussion, a plot point or a line of dialogue will spring up and immediately undermine it.

[rating=3] |Zach Roddis

comedy, Drama | USA, 2017 | 15 | Glasgow Film Festival | 10th March 2017 (UK) | Arrow Films | Dir.Onur Tukel | Sandra Oh, Anne Heche, Alicia Silverstone