Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sandra Oh and Anne Heche enliven Onur Tukel's dark and bleakly funny CATFIGHT

Looking for a nasty, funny, guilty pleasure that also offers a social/political edge? Such a thing arrives this Friday, March 3, as CATFIGHT opens in ten cities across the USA. Written and directed by Onur Tukel (Summer of Blood, Applesauce), the movie is an allegory for a number of things: the way we live now, our predilection toward violence as problem-solving, the uses of art and politics, political/ environmental correctness, the snares endemic to success, and our nation's (hell, most of the western world's) inability to place the important stuff -- environment, sheer survival -- ahead of our need to be entertained.

This is a lot to pack in, and it must be said that Mr. Tukel, shown at left, packs it pretty heavy-handedly. (Witness the "news" program we see on TV throughout, in which immensely important topics are consistently interrupted by a farting clown, to the utter delight of the audience. It's Fox News meets Duck Dynasty meets Captain Kangaroo.) On the other hand, given Turkel's subjects and the behavior of his leading characters, that heavy hand often seems pretty appropriate. This movie is a smack-down in so many ways.

As its stars, Catfight is lucky to have two actresses willing and able to go "all the way": Sandra Oh, (above), who is a revelation here, and Anne Heche (below), who seems to grow farther and farther afield from the beautifully angelic delight she played in one of her early films, the sweetly loony Pie in the Sky. Both actresses are impressive here, but Oh proves, oh, so rich and deep, as her character goes through one transformation after another. Heche, on the other hand, is fairly two-note, but she does take bitchy nastiness to shocking new heights.

If you imagine the the titular catfight comes at the film's climax, or that we wait for it eagerly and with baited breath, think again. The fight -- and it's a knock-down, drag-out bloody wonder -- happens very early on, in fact, and then occurs again and again throughout. Hence that theme of aggression as the problem-solver. The tale takes its two characters -- the wealthy wife of a successful businessman (Oh) and struggling artist (Heche) cared for by her significant other -- and, due to the results of these several fights, has them switch places in terms of success/wealth.

Yes, this is a rather obvious plot contraption, but Tukel rings enough changes on it that we easily follow along. In the role of Heche's significant other is Alicia Silverstone (below), who, via her funny/creepy character, provides some sharp, humorous digs at the politically and environmentally correct set, as well as those folk who go gaga as the birth of a baby approaches.

What happens -- the twists, turns and reverses -- all seem to lead to the same outcome and conclusion: Human beings are in such denial, are so fucking hypocritical, and can only seem to use violence to solve problems that, hey, let's admit it: We're lost. But, yes, like the audience for that farting clown, we'll go down laughing, while enjoying ourselves immensely. If stupidly and irrevocably.

Catfight -- from MPI Media Group/Dark Sky Films and running 96 minutes -- opens Friday, March 3, in New York (Cinema Village), Los Angeles (at Laemmle's Noho 7), Chicago, Atlanta, Cleveland, Seattle, Orlando, Phoenix, Denver and Kansas City (while simultaneously streaming via all digital platforms). 

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