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Catfight

College is a time when many people expand their horizons and meet people they might otherwise never have known. Of course, sometimes everyone would have been better off had certain people never met, as Catfight neatly demonstrates. Veronica (Sandra Oh) and Ashley (Anne Heche) were at least sort-of friends in college until Veronica put an end to things. Ashley is convinced that this was because she's gay. Veronica denies it but quite frankly it's hard to believe anything she says, at least to begin with.

Mercifully, college ends and everyone gets to go their own ways. Veronica married a wealthy man and had a son, Kip (Giullian Yao Gioiello), the family living a life of ease while housekeeper Donna (Myra Lucretia Taylor) takes care of everything. Meanwhile, Ashley pursued her dream of being a terrible artist, in more ways than one. She creates horrifying paintings that remind her assistant Sally (Ariel Kavoussi) of the Holocaust. Ashley's caterer girlfriend Lisa (Alicia Silverstone) pays the bills while Ashley keeps her art "pure" and frequently reduces the hapless Sally to near-tears with outrageous demands.

One night, Lisa caters a party for Veronica's husband's business partner, Carl (Peter Jacobson, House) and guilts Ashley into helping out. There the former friends unexpectedly reunite over drinks -- with Ashley pouring and Veronica knocking them back -- and to say that things don't go well is like saying Vesuvius caused a bit of trouble for Pompeii. Before you know it, the movie is living up to its name as the two beat the crap out of each other in a stairwell, because they were at least polite enough to take it outside.

It might have been a strange but eventually forgotten interlude, but instead it launches a series of bizarre and terrible events that change both women's lives over the coming years. Possibly the most bizarre parts are the somewhat painful monologues -- from the worst late-night talk show ever-- that act as narration, with the progress of a (semi-) fictional war in the Mideast helping to show the passage of time. A good war satire this isn't, though to be fair these days trying to satirize anything at all political is a daunting prospect, to say the least.

But I can't resist it any longer: the fight scenes pull no punches. None of that silly hair-pulling or face-slapping here; these women throw punches and even swing hammers with the best of them. I'm a little surprised they both survived college in the first place. It might not be much of a war satire but it works much better when it shines a light on human stubbornness and the difficulty of real change, even when your entire world is turned upside down.

There are some narrative flaws as well as a tendency to beat the viewer over the head with the lesson of the moment (and did I mention the horrible talk show?) but despite this it's a fun and entertaining movie. It's a very dark comedy, full of improbable coincidences, but somehow Heche and Oh's performances help it feel more realistic than you'd expect -- there are plenty of wild, over the top scenes, but they're nicely balanced out with quieter moments. You can also look for some familiar faces, like Dylan Baker of Spider-Man 3 as a running joke -- I mean a doctor both women encounter. It's perhaps best not to study the plot too closely, but it makes an excellent popcorn flick.

Image: 
Seen here: One last moment of calm before everything explodes.

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