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"Catfish" is a difficult film to talk about without spoiling. The
sensationalist trailer gives a deliberately one-sided peek at a film
which is ultimately defined by its ending. Expectations should probably
be mediated, however"Catfish" isn't going to blow your mind. In fact,
the outcome of this social networking mystery is rather
straightforward, but no less brilliant for it. This is a film where
palpable suspense cedes way to an unconventional and thought- provoking
character study. Maybe the best introduction I can offer is that I
really liked it.
Arriving in a market practically gorged with tongue-in-cheek faux documentaries, it's initially difficult to take "Catfish" at face value. The story begins innocuously enough; Yaniv "Nev" Schulman has just had his first picture published in the New York Times when a package arrives at his office containing a painted replica of the photo. The artist is a 12 year- old admirer, and her correspondence begets a peculiar Facebook friendship. As Nev becomes involved with her and her family, however, he begins to notice certain inconsistencies with the perfect lives they lead online.
Much of the build-up feels stagey, and surely something is amiss, because either filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are considerably more talented directors than they portray themselves as, or they are not being entirely forthcoming. The prevalence of the camera during seemingly random moments that become key scenes seems perhaps a bit too fortuitous, and the placement and framing of the shots themselves seem too precisely calculated to have been captured on the fly for this amateur guerrilla venture.
Yet it doesn't matter in the slightest. "Catfish" is about calling our willingness to accept unsubstantiated information into question, and thus encourages a skepticism and natural inquisitiveness towards itself. The entire thing could be fabricated, and its creators have a built-in ace in the hole. Falsifying a non-fiction film about false identity could add a brilliant meta layer to the puzzle.
That being said, I don't believe that Joost and Schulman invented the whole thing. Somebody get these guys a pen and paper if they did. Rather, I tend to identify with the prevailing online rumor that suggests the ending was shot first, with some or most of the first half consisting of retroactive reenactments. But though I question the authenticity of certain moments, whether or not they are genuine seems beside the point"Catfish" is an effective film.
The foundation of that success lies in its solid technique. The gradual rationing of information and the introduction and unraveling of the central mystery is surprisingly well handled. The plot is obtuse and intense when it needs to be, and the suspense is so potent that some have even been let down that it never becomes an all-out thriller.
But suspense has the tendency to be undervalued in an of itself, and the suspense in "Catfish" is an exceptionally executed, integral part of the ride. The film, on the whole, works not only because of its moments of seizing, visceral tension, but because of the greater message it evokes. In hindsight, scenes like those exploited in the trailer featuring Nev and his buddies arriving at a quiet farm in the dead of night seem downright silly when compared to where they eventually end up.
"Catfish" has been getting a ton of very positive press recently, and it deserves much of the praise it's received. But backlash follows hype like a shadow, and I have a feeling that those swayed into seeing the film who might not have otherwise will enter with unrealistic expectations. It is a fascinating, offbeat experiment, but it still appeals to niche interests. The extent to which we let ourselves believe that the internet is a direct extension of our preceptory senses can be dangerousBut I'll say no more. I don't want to spoil anything.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"A shattering conclusion." "The best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never
directed." These are a couple of the tag line quotes that appear in the
trailer for "Catfish." The movie poster tells us "Don't let anyone tell
you what it is." Watch the trailer and it seems like this is going to
be the next "The Blair Witch Project." Really, go to You Tube and watch
it right now. I'll wait
What do you think? It looks suspenseful and
frightening, doesn't it? Well, it ain't, sister. The marketing
department for "Hit the Ground Running Films" did a number on twisting
this two-minute trailer around to make it seem like you are going to
see the next big documentary thriller. What you will see is a study in
social media and the human psyche that is using modern technology (such
as Google Earth, Facebook and texting) to bring the story together.
"Catfish" is a documentary by three aspiring filmmakers. The story begins by introducing us to Nev Schulman who is the main focus of the story that his brother, Rel Schulman, and friend, Henry Joost, are producing and directing. Nev is a young, charismatic photographer in New York City. One of his photos he had published made it all the way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This is where an 8-year-old girl named Abby sees the photograph; she draws a painting of it and sends it to Nev. As having been the father of an 8 year old myself, I could tell something was rotten in Denmark from the quality of work this child was producing.
Nev and Abby start a pen pal relationship via Facebook. Nev befriends Abby's entire family on Facebook and even talks to her mom on the phone. He becomes close to Abby's older, attractive sister, Megan, and starts having feelings for her over the phone. Hey, it happens. There is an accurate scene where a nervous Nev calls Megan for the first time. Within today's culture of meeting people online, it is exactly how these phone calls play out. People meet online and text and e-mail back and forth until the day comes where they exchange phone numbers and there is an awkward human connection. It's a norm for this generation and they will easily relate to Nev's nervous behavior while tripping over his words when he is speaking to Megan.
Nev and the filmmakers start putting the clues together from Megan's e-mails. Through some detective work on You Tube and other various sites they are slowly realizing that someone is playing them like a squeezebox. They get the bright idea to drive to Michigan to confront Abby, Megan and the rest of the family.
This is where the movie trailer leaves us hanging. After a long trip, the trio of filmmakers arrives at the barn by Megan's house in the middle of the night. They peer inside the barn...and... and sorry I can't tell you what it is. I have an agreement with a movie poster. But, what I can tell you is that it's not some 20 year old standing in the corner of a basement in an abandoned house in the woods. That has been done before. It's not even startling, not in the sense that I would expect it to be.
The rest of the film spends its time explaining how Nev and his mystery solving team react to their findings. If you pay attention (and, it's pretty easy to do) you can pick up on where the movie was going.
There was no big "wow" moment nor was there "a shattering conclusion." It was simply people explaining their actions on why they did what they did. At the end the audience is rewarded because the film's title is explained. Trust me the end does not justify the means.
Should you see this movie? Only if you want a movie that has a lot of build up and very little climax. It would fare better in a small, independent movie theater rather than on Megaplex screens. In fact, I could see a professor using this as a teaching tool in a Psychology 101 or Sociology 101 classroom. It made some valid points about how people can manipulate one another on the Internet. The point is well taken, because I certainly felt manipulated by the movie trailer.
I remember in the very late 90's discovering the world of Yahoo
chatrooms ... talking this way and that way with total strangers,
sometimes being myself, sometimes lying through my teeth. Creating new
usernames as a female to talk to lesbians every once in a while seemed
a fun thing to do as an 18yr old lad, never succeeding to convince any
to talk dirty to me. HA! The things we do.
And that is where this movie comes in. Meeting people online ... checking out their profiles and thinking ... "yeah ... not bad", talking more online and getting to know them and developing feelings for this entity, god knows where on the planet, typing their words to you and maybe, just maybe feeling the same way.
And how much of it is true ... ?
This was an intriguing watch, playful and suspenseful and by the end, full of heart that is a far cry from the gripping thriller documentary style movie portrayed in the trailer (which I saw after at one reviewers request) but none the less, I enjoyed the movie for piecing together something many of us have done ... but just not to these extremes. Give it a go ... =]
If somebody made me choose a favorite film genre, psychological
thriller would quite possibly be my answer. Films that include
incredible twist endings (Oldboy) or have elaborate story lines that
make you think (Inception) are definitely some of the best times to be
had when it comes to an entertaining movie experience. Catfish was
marketed as a film that was not only a thriller, but also contained "a
shattering conclusion" that was compared to Alfred Hitchcock. In the
end, it didn't really have either of those things.
Catfish had this vibe the entire film like it was leading towards something dark near its conclusion. As Nev makes his way to Michigan, you get more and more anxious as he nears his destination. Even the music gets really unsettling. Is Megan's family going to be a bunch of chainsaw wielding cannibals or have Angela and Vince been keeping a kidnapped girl named Megan chained in their basement for weeks to lead young, single guys out there for them to torture as some sort of twisted way to get off? No, it's nothing like that. Catfish never really became thrilling or even came near diving into dark territory.
What Catfish winds up being is an interesting character study presented as a documentary. The film's heart resides in who Megan really is and how the entire experience affects Nev. Once the pieces of the puzzle are put together and everything falls into place, Catfish turns out to be a very raw, emotional, and heartfelt film. What's intriguing is the film revolves around Facebook and with The Social Network hitting theaters in about two weeks, it seems like a bit of a bold move.
What is arguably the best scene in the film is when it's actually explained why Catfish was chosen as the title in the final minutes. It is a pretty incredible explanation and fits the film perfectly.
Catfish isn't necessarily a bad film, in fact, it's pretty powerful once it really gets going. It probably isn't what you're expecting though. While Catfish is laugh out loud at certain points in the film, at its core, it's a documented love story that mostly resides on the internet. Maybe it just comes from personal experience, the way the film was presented, or the on-screen presence of the characters in the film, but Catfish felt genuine which isn't something that can be said about many films that have come out this year.
A documentary about a man (Nev) who starts a relationship with a woman he meets on face-book, and starts to wonder how truthful this person is. If you watch the trailer for this movie it is very misleading, not to say its a bad movie but it's not at all what I expected. This is a true life account that I'm sure has happened to many people. An 8 year old girl named Abby starts to send Nev paintings she has done after seeing a picture Nev took in a newspaper. Out of that Nev begins to talk with Angela (Abby's mom) and it carries over to Megan (Abby's sister). After quickly falling in love with Megan, Nev soon discovers Megan may not be who she says she is and plans a trip to visit her and find out the truth. Every once in a while a movie comes along that you just have to keep watching and your not sure why, and when it's over your not sure why it had this grip on you, this is one of those movies. This is not for everyone, being that it is a documentary and slow in parts, but it is very interesting and has an ending that sneaks up on you and affects you in a way you can't explain. At least it did to me. I give it a B-
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I can't believe that I'm not allowed to request a refund or sue the
producers of this movie for the entirely misleading, and at some
points, outright lying trailer!
If you have seen the trailer, you would expect a thriller movie with the real story happening at some point after they find the empty farmhouse. The trailer states that:
"The final forty minutes of the film will take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride that you won't be able to shake for days". Sure, being surprised by the lameness of the final 40 minutes, and then angry about this kind of tricks could be described as an emotional roller-coaster.
"A bizarre and completely unpredictable mystery" Unpredictable because the trailer is deliberately misleading.
"A shattering conclusion" Who was shattered by that conclusion? Can you imagine a more anti- climactic conclusion?
And when you find out what the movie is actually about? Sure, some people may enjoy exploring the "unknown variables in internet relationships", but are those the same people that would go to see a thriller movie, based on the trailer?
Maybe we should cut and copy together all of the love scenes from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and then make a trailer portraying it as a romantic comedy!!!
Seriously, they might as well have put a picture of themselves at the theater exit, laughing and rolling in piles of money.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Remember the edge-of-your-seat preview in which CATFISH gives you a
taste of the suspenseful meeting of a random Facebook friend in person?
The text appears on screen: THE LAST 40 MINUTES OF THIS MOVIE WILL BLOW
YOUR MIND. Intrigued by the preview scene of the dark rural Michigan
town, one naturally would assume the last 40 minutes of this movie
would be a climactic mystery of disturbing horror and/or suspense. With
the authentic camcorder cinematography and relatable cast of
twenty-something-years-old New York guys who share the common human
vice of an over-curious mind, one might also assume the film would be
the long-anticipated, non-supernatural version of The Blair Witch
Project or Paranormal Activity.
Unfortunately, the only participants in this film who deserve a pat-on-the-back would be the trailer editors. Like most people, most of your excitement stemmed from the two-minute masterpiece of a preview or maybe the ambiguous two-sentence synopsis dangled in front of your noses. If you took the bait, I'm sorry. Truly, I feel your pain. Sitting through the second half of this movie is a bit like waiting for the bus: you somewhat feel the urge to pass the time by inserting your iPod ear-buds or asking the bum next to you for a swig of whatever he has in his brown bag. I suppose the only difference in this case would be that the bus never comes, no bums can afford movie theater prices anymore, and you just paid 10+ dollars.
Without giving the ending away (because I do feel a sense of enjoyment when other people share my painful experiences, similar to if I trip over a crack in the sidewalk, it is quite funny to watch the unsuspecting walkers behind me do the same), it would be apt to say that this movie could have been a two-hour nightly news investigation. Before the credits began to role, I somewhat expected Ann Curry to appear on the screen stating, "This has been Dateline NBC, I'm Ann Curry," in her frighteningly dramatic, deep voice. And it would have been a damn good Dateline.
Despite the sheer disappointment this movie will leave you drenched with, the first 40 minutes of the movie deserve an A+. The characters are easy to relate to, the story unfolds at a decent rate (in the beginning), and the suspense is subtle yet recognizable. As the film progresses, the development of the characters is spot-on and the mystery begins to unfold. Then, much to the horror/suspense-goers disappointment, the story hits a brick wall. Here, you might just want to walk out of the theater because the entertainment aspect of the film has ended.
Overall, even though I admire the creators of CATFISH for their ability to outline the problems of technology and social networks through an intriguing story, they should have just sold it to Ann Curry. Whether you are Catfish or Cod, do not take this bait.
The film centers around photographer Yaniv "Nev" Schulman, recorded by
Ariel Schulman, and Henry Joost. This is all I'm going to reveal about
the plot, because I strongly believe that you should see this movie
knowing virtually nothing about it. If I even gave a synopsis, I'd be
giving too much away.
It's a film with a rather dark tone, and smartly edited by Zachary Stuart-Pontier. The documentary does make some strong points, such as "Who is this person?" "Who can I trust?" "What's real, and what's falsehood?" It makes one wonder what length some will go to hide the truth, and wonder what they would do in a situation like Nev's.
The film starts off rather charming, but eventually the film ends up becoming so nervously unsettling, and emotionally devastating that it's painful to watch. I know it made me not want to know what happen, because it just so hard to fathom, but I just decided to grit my teeth, and keep watching. The film is highly thought provoking, question raising, and the tone Joost, and Schulman set helps the film immeasurably.
The film is hardly ever pretty to watch, but am eye opener to be certain.
I give Catfish *** out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this at Sundance, and no, I'm not going to spoil it for anyone,
but the real issue is that is being marketed as "true" when it is
If it was a true story, it would be quite shocking. When I first saw it, I didn't see the ending coming. But once I did some more research, I realized that, as a written script, it was pretty tame. Imagine a Lifetime Channel movie of the week, but shot in documentary format, and you'll have a good idea of what "Catfish" is.
Of course, I had to do some digging to see there was no truth behind the story. For one, Angela's Facebook page mentions nothing of the fact there is a movie coming out about her or her daughter, which would be something you would tell people about, if just to dispute things that may cast her in a bad light (The Facebook page was last updated on July 29th 2010). Also, in the movie they watch Youtube videos of her daughter, but after looking up these videos I saw they were uploaded around the same time that the filming of "Catfish" took place, so that is pretty convenient as well, and with only 35 views, does not make sense because. . .well I won't spoil that either. (BTW The Facebook profile of Angela that I checked was posted on this Youtuber's account, so it was not a fake one made after the filming by a fan.)
The big thing, though, is that with such a shocking ending, I find it unbelievable that Angela would sign releases allowing her full name and image to be used. All in all, it was a mediocre film, and that is the real truth.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is my opinion that this awful crap-fest belongs on a dung-heap. What
were the (ahem) filmmakers thinking? Honestly, really.
First of all, this is not a thriller at all. It is not suspenseful. It started out interesting but lost me after the deceptive reveal. Not the storyline's deceptive reveal--the marketing dept.'s deceptive reveal. But by that time, it's too late. I mean, come on, disguising this movie as a thriller was the first sin.
Secondly, once I was there, at the point where I knew it was too late, I was stuck watching a real bore of a documentary about real people with really boring lives. Okay, so the catfish story was pretty cool, but for crying out loud, I had to wait until the end of the movie to get the story? And...it was the only redeeming quality of the movie. Other than that, it was an otherwise absolute snorer.
Finally, this movie should be up there with some of the other bad movies on this site, including: Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, Manos: The Hands of Fate, and Daniel - Der Zauberer. Although, this will probably never happen...not so long as there is vested interest in promoting this movie as a thriller and not as what it really is: a lame excuse for a documentary.
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