Onur Tukel grows up…………sort of…
After seeing Catfight at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) Saturday night, in which I was anticipating to see, I was alleviated to notice this Catfight is Onur Tukel’s turn at a proper structure of story. As oppose to taking an idea that is too small to make into a feature, and bloating it out into a concave of amateur misguided starter film making to make a full length. Onur’s past movies; Summer of Blood (2014) and Apple Sauce (2015) are usually padded out with jokes and conclude in a manner that subtracts from the point of his movies due the overdone miscalculated timing of the film itself. Now whether Onur Tukel always intended to have his films fell longer than they should be or if he’s unaware of how that fact spoils his movies, is up to debate for now as I didn’t get a chance to ask him at the Q&A Saturday, due to the fact I was sitting behind him as he was doing panel. Never the less Catfight has the over length in spades but it actually feels necessary and experimental with making the statement of the monotony and uncertain endlessness of war.
Catfightis a deeply sardonic satirical tale about the pointlessness of status, of two middle aged women living impossibly far apart ideologically lifestyles, who we’re good friends in college but haven’t seen each other since then. They both become examples of justification for their opposing outlooks and butts of jokes displaying their disdain of said ideals. The hidden resentment boils over however, when the two reunited unexpectedly at a fundraiser event. Veronica (played by Sandra Oh) discovers Ashley (played by Anne Heche) is now a struggling artist, working part time as a caterer for her girlfriend Lisa’s catering company (played by Alicia Silverstone) and Ashley discovers that Veronica is a strict mother/house wife. The encounter beholds both women disturbed to find out how either person resulted decades later, and avalanches into physical retaliation.
Onur Tukel could be known for his jovial social commentary throughout his movies, and with Catfight he takes that commentary to a more politically aggressive level, that reaches a more meaningful plateau beyond all the laughs. Onur expresses his views on social status and how a person’s venture in life can end up affecting someone else’s on the complete opposite site of the spectrum. Assumingly created based race relations. How art and politics can easily clash and therefore have a huge impact on culture. How art to a certain extent, though meant to be free and inspiring, ironically needs financial backing to reach a wide audience and to continue as a career. That though someone maybe rich and seemingly behave with condescension, they can still have empathy and love inside them, especially if they’re selfless enough to parent a child, and the juxtaposition of being an artist of meaning, yet being consumed with the process that it becomes more about the artist than the statement of the work itself. Onur also tackles his thoughts on Donald Trump, throwing in a cackling line said by a side character about a tree……”That’s Donald….he’s a dick.” Going even further, Onur really hammers in his disdain for Republicans and the idea of the war on terror. Craig Bierko (who Onur Tukel has always wanted to work with) plays a “Jimmy Fallon” type tonight show host who’s always broadcasted on North American television. He displays the daily depressing headlines of political war and then counter acts those details with a man farting in his underwear, pointing out our conditioning to laughing at the cruelest low brow humor in order to stomach and forget the reality of current civilization, though suggesting laughter maybe the best thing to have when being left out of the higher level loop. Also, Tukel displays the underlining truth that a war on terror is impossible, but that lots of North Americans just want an answer to what they’re being told and through that believe war has its place. There as well is a theme sprinkled quite often though out the movie, about the need for companionship, that when things seem distance you always have the ones you love and the ones who love you to console you no matter what we think.
Catfight has many moments where characters soberly stop the films stride in its tracks, to display realistic grim exact truths towards other characters, very reminiscent of the dark, removed, frigid dialogue from none other than the master of grim: Todd Solondz. Clearly his movies were a big influence on this film, even down to the strict dismal way it was filmed with certain scenes of dark clarity, which also can bring out the hilarity of the scene from the sudden way the dialogue is written; IE A hilarious scene with Alicia Silverstone at her baby shower, coldly and obnoxiously telling off a guest of hers who gave her a present that may not be so environmentally conscious.
Sandra Oh is at her peak in Catfight flawlessly going from pretentious, pushy and inconsiderate to frustrated, caring, respectful and lovingly determined and sentimental, definitely the anchor of the entirely film. Anne Heche is a torpedo of anxiousness, giving her all and completely sacrificing herself to her characters plight as a struggling self obsessed artist, very close to the commitment of Ms. Winona Ryder in Stranger Things (2016). Great to finally see again, Alicia Silverstone is as natural as can be as Anne Heche’s girlfriend Lisa, who is emotionally ever changing but is completely fleshed out as a character, played with lots of thought as Anne Heche’s practical centering better half. The film is then rounded out perfectly with some of the greatest amusing support roles of all time with Craig Bierko, Dylan Baker, Amy Hill and a comedic breakout performance by Ariel Kavoussi.
Catfight is a extremely poignant film of timely importance that spills the mindful contents Onur Tukel has being harboring in the past year. While being so intellectually affective and determined Onur knows when to have fun and knows who he is, a personal joke teller who has mastered his comedic craft while being deeply honest. Though the movie is awkwardly cut at some parts and some finesse could be suggested in the execution of the scenes, this is typical of Onur Tukel, who does come off as an amateur filmmaker but with Catfight is truly coming into his own by taking some tips from some greats but by being even more personal and forthright than ever. Of course all of this substance isn’t lost as the film is supported by brutally hilarious detailed fight scenes between Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, that go on purposely too long and too cartoony to take seriously but that remind us of the essence of Onur’s refreshingly comedic voice and his movie’s point of the over staying of war. Finally Onur Tukel makes a movie with a ending that doesn’t lead to exhaustion, looks professional as can be and is sure to be his breakout film.
Check out CATFIGHT!
- Maurice Jones