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Catfight Review

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Meeting by chance after many years, Manhattan trophy wife Veronica (Sandra Oh) and struggling Brooklyn artist Ashley (Anne Heche) rekindle a dormant feud with an epic stairwell punch-up that leaves the former in a coma. When she wakes two years later, the world is a very different place.

★★★★★

When Marlene Dietrich and Una Merkel traded blows in George Marshall's Destry Rides Again (1939), they were scuffling over a pair of pants won in a card game. But the source of Anne Heche and Sandra Oh's seething antagonism is never made entirely clear in Onur Tukel's pugnacious satire on the social divisions that dominated the 2016 presidential election campaign. Given the savagery of their three titanic rumbles, it must owe more to the fact that Oh never forgave her friend for coming out at college. But Tukel is less concerned with cause than effect, as the US embarks upon a Middle Eastern war just as the old foes reunite at a party thrown by Oh's profiteeting husband, Damian Young, and catered by Heche's broody girlfriend, Alicia Silverstone.

Risking accusations of misogyny and bad taste, Tukel depicts both women as monsters. Oh condescends to black maid Myra Lucretia Taylor and laments teenage son Giullian Yao Gioiello's obsession with art, while Heche treats assistant Ariel Kavoussi like a dogsbody and curses her clients for failing to recognise her genius. Neither benefits from a reversal of fortune or a second scrap in a tyre shop and it's unlikely that any lessons will be learned from a climactic tussle in the woods - providing either survives.

But no one is particularly likeable in an ugly allegorical America, in which Silverstone sums up the nation's faddism, populism and jingoism, as well as its venality, prejudice and hideous sense of entitlement in rejecting some trendy baby shower gifts. Some of the wit is clumsy and coarse. But sometimes it takes a blunt instrument to make a point.

Played with committed ferocity by the excellent Oh and Heche, this riotous state-of-the-nation satire may lack subtlety, but it has the courage of its socko convictions and certainly packs a punch.

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