GFF 2017: Onur Tukel's brilliantly brutal comedy features superb work from Anne Heche and Sandra Oh
There should be more films where middle-aged women beat the shit out of each other. That's the impossible-not-to-reach conclusion after watching Catfight, an outrageously enjoyable bitch-fest of a movie from writer-director Onur Tukel which ridicules the 'geriaction' phenomenon even as it revels in its tropes.
Its heroines are ostensibly respectable: snooty trophy wife Veronica (Sandra Oh) and struggling artist Ashley (Anne Heche). These former college friends find themselves exchanging barely disguised insults across a physical manifestation of the social divide, as Ashley tends bar at an exclusive party attended by Veronica and her spouse. What starts as a masterclass in passive aggression takes a turn for the surreal when things come to blows in a stairwell, an altercation that leaves one of the women in a coma.
Boasting a pair of fortysomething leads and an ironic title (that brings to mind the kind of pathetic scraps that sometimes serve as titillation for men), Catfight documents the women's fluid fortunes and the stubbornness of their shared grudge. It highlights the double-standards of a movie industry that excludes older women just as their male counterparts are having their egos stroked as action heroes, giving us a world where the 'fairer sex' are every bit as violent, vengeance-fixated and oddly indestructible.
Tukel's film adopts a lightly dystopian but nevertheless resonant context (a new warmongering US president is sworn in at the outset), though its narrative is brazenly absurd: it jumps forward in time, repeats itself and fills in gaps with haste. Yet it's rich with delicious, precision-performed awkwardness, while events are structured around – and build tantalisingly to – three exuberant fight scenes that are hilarious in their full-throttle brutality.
The supporting cast are well chosen: Alicia Silverstone as Ashley's partner with whom she plans to have a child; Ariel Kavoussi as the artist's put-upon, cutesy assistant Sally (whose love of blue bunnies contrasts with her boss's red rage); Amy Hill as Veronica's mad aunt Charlie; and Dylan Baker as a 'coma doctor'. But it's Heche and Oh who are on fire here, the pair are fantastically funny in a proudly immature offering that delivers its satire in unforgettable and exhilarating style. Grab some popcorn and take a seat on the sidelines for a face-off like no other.
Screening on Sat 18 and Wed 22 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2017. Selected release from Fri 10 Mar.