Catfish [Contains Extremely Vague Spoilers]

Anyone = This review

You’ve heard the stories. They’ve made excellent fodder for Lifetime movies and Dateline episodes, and they always have the same moral: Don’t trust anybody that you’ve met on the internet. The stories have been around for over a decade now, and they’ve been the subject of far too many Law and Order: SVU episodes.

     To put it simply: Catfish is not a shocking revelation. We know the dangers of social networking. We’ve known them. However, we have never quite seen the story told this way. Usually, the story involves an innocent young girl who meets the perfect guy online only to find out that that guy is twenty years older and way more violent than she originally conceived. (Exhibit A, ladies and gentlemen)
     So what we have in Catfish is a blending of what we are used to and something new. That something new begins with the male perspective, which is strange because it seems that stereotypically men would fall for something like this faster than women would, you know, if we’re going to use blanket statements.  And the other something new is the way in which the story is told.
     [For the purposes of this review we’ll take the film at face value and hold that it’s a true documentary, leaving the popular opinion that these filmmakers pretended to be in the dark longer than they were next to the elephant in the room.]
     The film is a documentary starring Nev, his brother Rel, and their friend Henry. Nev has been receiving painted versions of his photographs from a young girl, Abby, who lives in Ishpeming, Michigan over the course of several months. After the first few packages come in, Nev friends Abby, her mother, Angela, her sister, Megan, and the various other people related to what Nev calls the “Facebook Family.” After Angela calls Nev concerning the shipping of packages, he begins a cellphone relationship with Angela and Megan. For the next eight months, Nev and Megan become very close and seemingly fall in love over facebook chat and cellphone conversations.
     So naturally Nev would like to visit her at her home in Michigan.
     Yet as Nev and his friends start adding things up, they realize that something is wrong. Some facts just don’t work. And so they drive to Michigan in order to visit Megan not only because Nev may love her, but because she may not even exist.
     Sure enough, when Nev knocks on the side door of a house in Ishpeming, Michigan, his filmmaker friends realize that they have stumbled onto a gold mine of a documentary.
     But is the film good? After all of the hype surrounding the film at Sundance, after all of the questions surrounding that trailer, does it live up to all of the hoopla?
    Yes and no.
    In one hand, Yes, because the film is a well-paced and, by the end, extremely moving and powerful documentary, but in the other hand, No, because the film’s marketing is a big fat liar.
     Watching the movie at face value, without the interference of marketing or hype to sway me, would have been a totally different experience than the experience I really had. The movie I was watching was potentially “The best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made,” and not an interesting character study on loneliness in the digital age.
     As a horror film the movie sucks. There are no scares. As the marketing would have you believe, the documentary is full of intrigue and danger and mystery. However, the film does not deliver on any of these fronts. There is mystery, but it’s of a different sort.
    As a documentary about a generation where relationships can blossom without physical contact, the film shines. It raises so many questions about the way in which people interact online that it is impossible not to appreciate the movie for what it’s doing.
    So if you’re looking for a movie that will “Disturb you to your core,” I would suggest seeing something else (such as one of the films in my previous blog), but if you’re looking for a film that I would lump together with The Social Network as far as commentary on the current generation goes, I would highly recommend this film to you.

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  • I just watched the commentary to see if they talked about why they brought Hitchcock into it. They didn't mention it. It was really effective, though. And isn't that all that counts in advertising?