This black comedy by Onur Tukel has an interesting premise and a couple of decent performances, though the film starts to drag well before the end and the humour – including some clumsily-delivered satirical elements – loses impact as a result of repetition. Sandrah Oh and Anne Heche star as a pair of former college peers named Veronica and Ashley whose paths through life since university have deviated considerably. Veronica does not work and enjoys a luxurious lifestyle as a result of the wealth of her businessman husband, a smug douchebag who celebrates an impending war in the Middle East (the film never specifies where, exactly) because it is going to make him even richer, though that glibness is wickedly turned on its head as the movie progresses. Meanwhile Ashley is a struggling artist whose work reveals a deep-rooted unhappiness and is completely unappreciated by gallerists. Their lives may have gone in wildly different directions – one is straight, with a teenage son and a husband who is possibly gay, the other is in a relationship with a woman (Alicia Silverstone) who is desperate to have a baby, but as the story develops it becomes clear that the pair do also have things in common, such as a generally dismissive attitude to the people who work for them.
The film is, essentially, a situation-swap comedy; following a chance meeting at a party, Veronica and Ashley have a bitter argument that eventually develops into the fight the title alludes to; the brutality of this all-out paggering is startling and faintly amusing, with the two actors put through their physical paces. One of the women wakes up in a coma a couple of years later having lost everything, while the other woman’s life seems to have gone from strength to strength in the same period of time; both of the women’s relationships with the other women who worked for them also change. This first act is quite good, but Tukel lays the tragedy on a little thick hereafter and repeats the catfight two more times, to diminishing effect. As a result the film seems to be treading water for an hour after Veronica and Ashley first trade blows in a stairwell, and there’s no real reward for anyone who stays with it until their final, final showdown. Interspersed are unfunny TV clips in which discourse about the war in the Middle East is dismissed in favour of a man who amplifies his farts through a cone, a heavy-handed comment on the media that is repeated far too many times throughout the movie; the clips also illustrate the level of Tukel’s satire throughout the film, which hits a nadir when three trees are compared to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. By its end Catfight is little more than a series of sequences that feel like sketches or scenes that were left in from previous drafts of the screenplay, and the script itself is leaden, with way too many clunky lines left in that strip the film of any remaining subtlety. Sadly, after a promising start, this comedy completely loses its way, and I’m not entirely sure what it’s trying to say about violence, war, motherhood or fate. (**½)