Catfish

15 Oct

Title: Catfish
Year: 2010
Directors: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Writer:
Starring: Megan Faccio, Melody C. Roscher, Nev Schulman, Ariel Schulman
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some sexual references
Runtime: 86 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%

 

This is a very daring documentary, a bit too daring at times because you feel it just kind of exploited those involved, but I liked it because, for one, it had a very contemporary and relevant subject, and because it was setup as an incredible mystery and truly held your attention throughout, which is what every good documentary should try to do. This has to be, whether we like it or not, and I’m not sure I love it myself, one of the most engaging films of the year.

This is, for those of you don’t know, the ‘other’ Facebook film this year, the other one being the more notorious The Social Network which I’ve yet to see but am hearing only amazing things about. This is about Facebook, about how one person gets involved with a person he doesn’t know via Facebook, how he starts ‘dating’ her online, and how he ends up realizing everything wasn’t what he supposed it was. That’s really all I’ll say about this film, if I went into specifics I’d spoil the experience for you, and as I said, whether you like it or not, the experience is seriously grippng. This is the definitive ‘don’t talk to strangers’ movie. The best example of why people shouldn’t be living so much of their lives on the internet.

Or maybe it’s the new I’m Still Here and it’s all a hoax, like it’s been suggested more than once, but I’m kind of buying this one. But whatever the case, false or not, this is a film that’s still a terrific experiment in showing us humanity from a different standpoint that we’ve ever seen, and the effect it has on the audience is quite unexpected. Here’s how this starts, we are at an apartment in which the Schulman brothers, Nev and Ariel live, and so does Henry Joost, they take photographs and shoot videos, and then one day Nev receives a painting of one of his photographs. It’s done by an eight year-old child prodigy, and she, with the help of her mother, starts e-mailing with Nev.

Nev starts liking the family, and he gets to know a lot about them, and gets to know Abby, the dad, the mom, and then, he gets to know Megan, who’s Abby’s nineteen-year-old sister, who he begins to talk a lot to. First online, then over the phone, she starts telling him of her plans, tells him she’s a songwriter and sends him files of her music for him to hear. Nev starts thinking she might be the one, starts thinking about finally getting to meet her in person.

The Social Network is about the origins of Facebook, Catfish is about the type of consequences the website may have on people who use it a little too much, who trust it a little too blindly. And I won’t spoil what happens when they get to Megan’s family’s town, when they go see to the horse farm she told him she was thinking of buying, that’s for you to discover, but it’s kinda creepy. And that’s to me when the film loses its ultimate potential. Yes, it’s when the film really gets interesting, after seeing Nev fight with his two friends about not wanting the cameras to keep rolling his online love life anymore, we get to see what happens when the socializing is done in person and not on the internet. But that’s the thing, everything that happens then is told with this sort of condescending outlook by the filmmakers, instead of a more objective and experimental approach, it killed its own buzz in that way, but still, we still want to see what happens, and what happens is pretty damn interesting to see unravel.

I really want to spoil Catfish for you, and talk more about the things I can’t talk about without giving it away. But let me just end by saying that Angela, the mother, is a seriously intriguing person to watch, you don’t know if you want to hate her or sympathize with her, to judge her actions with horror or with respect for her ‘craft’, if you will, she’s a polarizing character, and in a documentary like this one that’s the best thing you can have. And the husband is kind of the same, the conversations held with these two people are just fantastically engaging.

Catfish is indeed an experience I think shouldn’t be missed out on. I didn’t love the experience, but I loved experiencing it. Whether you love the filmmaker’s approach to the story, which I personally didn’t, you will get fully trapped by the story, and the fact that it tells something that resonates so much with the modern world we live in, where Facebook is a must for everyone and meeting people you don’t really know isn’t that far off, makes it that much more captivating and, at times, scary.

Grade: B

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