By Admin | October 8, 2010

When the documentary “Catfish” premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, it gained a little buzz, but was fairly under the radar. However soon thereafter and for whatever reason, the film began to take on a life of it’s own. I do my very best to avoid any kind of reviews or plot giveaways on movies I want to see and as 2010 trudged on, “Catfish” became a movie many folks were talking about. It was incredibly hard to avoid talk of the film, but somehow I managed. Yet in a kind of buzz “twist,” all the talk was centered on “don’t read or watch anything about the film” and “is this film real or fake?”

While there’s undoubtedly articles, tweets, blog entries and reviews aplenty questioning whether or not the film is truly a “documentary,” my take on the film having finally seen it is: it doesn’t matter if the film is “real” or not, and the genre and style of the film aren’t the important things to concern yourself with while watching. “Catfish” is insightful, creepy, poignant and weird and, beneath its surface, takes a brilliant look at the society we live in. If you can get over the questions of it’s authenticity, you’ll be able to see the big picture.

I will now basically talk about a film that I’ve managed to avoid all talk of and if you decide to read further, do so at your own risk. Do I think the film is better served if you know nothing about it going in? I’d say so, yeah. I think every film is better served that way, but that’s just my personal preference. While I’ll do my very best not to be a total spoiler, there’s no way around talking about the film without giving away some plot details. That being said, away we go.

“Catfish” focuses on two brothers, Nev and Ariel Schulman, and their pal Henry Joost who just happens to be a filmmaker. Nev is a photographer and somehow strikes up a friendship with an 8-year old girl named Abby who loves his photos and creates amazing paintings of them which she sends to Nev. Abby has a multi-talented and smoking hot sister named Megan who strikes up a long-distance romance with Nev through Facebook and naughty text and phone messages. Yet soon, Nev and company start to detect some holes in Megan’s story and doubt is cast on the entire family. In order to see if Megan is everything she claims to be, the trio set off to Michigan to get to the bottom of it all. So how does this all fit into how our society operates? I’ll tell you how.

You ever see what looks like a sexy brunette woman, carrying a designer bag while large Gucci sunglasses hide her eyes? She might look like a celebrity but the truth is, she works at Starbucks and those accoutrements are cheap knock-offs. Ever see a really buffed dude with a shaved head, UFC t-shirt and miles of tattoos all over his body? That guy lives at home with his parents and the closest thing he’s ever had to a fight was with his dad over paying rent. Hell, maybe you read other film related websites (you shouldn’t, by the way) and the portly dude on there purporting to know all there is to know about cinema, who keeps the site going, barely graduated high school and had to take summer school to pass English. My point is that we live in a narcissistic society stuffed to the gills with false impressions. Or better, many people push an image of themselves that isn’t so much “true” inasmuch as it’s an impression we “want” to be true. “Catfish” knows this and explores the falsehoods and narcissism of our modern, pop-culture drenched existence in an interesting way.

As such, I really didn’t feel it mattered if the film was truly a documentary or a fabricated story ripe with twists to engage the audience. The message and the attitude of “Catfish” are the important things here and the results will keep you thinking. I did feel that Nev was too cutesy and took to hamming it up for the camera a bit too much and the way the boys set their plan in action feels a little forced (read: fake). But overall “Catfish” is an intriguing film that should be judged based on what it’s saying rather than it’s authenticity. Or worse, judged poorly based on a backlash to it’s fairly large buzz.

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  1. sosgemini says:

    “But overall “Catfish” is an intriguing film that should be judged based on what it’s saying rather than it’s authenticity.”

    Sorry, once credibility is shot out the window, how are you supposed to believe anything on the screen? I could never be immersed in the film experience knowing these tools manipulated a fragile and possibly mentally ill woman just to make a documentary (oops, I mean: money) off the experience.

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