Thursday, October 7, 2010

Movie Review - Catfish

Catfish - ***

Directed by: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost

Starring:  Nev Schulman, Angela Wesselman-Pierce, Henry Joost


Review:  The trailer for Catfish would have you believe that this is a 'Blair Witch Project' mocumentary style suspense/horror film.  Do not believe this because you would be wrong.  Catfish is not at all what you would expect going into the movie after watching the trailer.  However, thankfully, that does not mean it's a bad movie.

What I thought was going to be an inventive suspenseful documentary turned out to be a very provocative real, genuine documentary. More than that, it showed itself to be a cautionary tale about how we let technology affect our lives in different ways. Sometimes you get surprised by a movie in a good way and this is one of those times.

Catfish centers around a photographer Nev. Nev has a photograph that gets published in the New York Daily News (or one of those New York publications). Much to Nev's surprise, his picture garners him a fan who saw it on the internet. This fan is little 8 year old Abby who decided to make a painting of his picture and then send it to Nev. This continues on for a while and they eventually become pen pals of sorts. Then the rest of the family and some of the family's friends get involved and Nev becomes almost the focal point of all their Facebook energy.

One relationship that Nev especially cultivates is the one with Abby's older sister, Megan. This even goes as far as to develop a texting/phone call relationship. It begins to get very serious to the point where his friends even question whether or not he is dating. That is, until they discover one night something that doesn't sit right. After Megan sings a song for Nev and sends it to him, the whole group marvels over how great her voice is. When they try to get more info on the song she sang, they find out that there is a recording on the internet that sounds exactly like her song. This leads them to question the validity of Megan and her family's claims. This leads to the group wanting to go visit Megan and her family to get to the bottom of everything.

Nev and his crew head up to Michigan where the family lives and that's where things start to turn. A surprise visit to Megan's house reveals a place where nobody lives. This intrigues the crew even more and they make their way to Megan's family's home. What they find is very surprising. Nev had seen pictures of Megan and her mother online through Facebook. Going in to expect a very attractive woman that he had seen in pictures, Nev and his crew were very surprised to find a middle aged woman who looked nothing like the one in the pictures.

Who is this person? Why doesn't she look like the person in the pictures? Where is her daughter Megan? These are all questions Nev and his crew had that they had to get answered. Nev finally took Angela, sat her down and had a conversation about everything that was suspicious. It is quite fascinating what Nev found out.

Angela finally became overcome with guilt and spilled everything. All the people Nev had come into contact with on Facebook through Abby, Megan, and her were all fictional profiles that Angela created. She even tweaked her voice a bit and played like her daughter Megan on the phone and through text messages, including a very scandalous conversation that Nev recounts in embarrassing detail.

After realizing the movie was not going to be what I thought it was it actually turned into a very intriguing documentary piece. The movie took a different light and became more a study of how technology and social networking have affected all of us and how we communicate with each other. Angela has a very "wanting" lifestyle where she is basically a prisoner in her on home/life. The only release Angela has is to create these fictional characters and populate her life with people and details that she wishes were actually a part of her life. It's an interesting thought when you really get underneath it all.

Nev got a special release from his relationship with Megan (Angela) and she got an even bigger release from her relationship with him. Together they provided something for each other that was missing in both their lives, a certain level of companionship. Both of them couldn't find what the were looking for in their real lives so they turned to their virtual lives to get what they needed. In a sense, they hid behind all of the pictures of themselves and words they wrote. It is the microcosm of our society in which people enjoy talking about and reliving the event on the internet more than the event itself. This technology has become addictive to some because it fills this void in our lives where we need people.

I imagine somebody someday will find a way to splice this movie with "The Social Network." Together it could be a very powerful message, to show how the most revolutionary social networking site ever was created and show just how much it has changed and affected our lives with how we communicate with each other. At the very least a double feature would be in order. While not as good as 'The Social Network' this movie definitely sheds a different light on the topic and makes for a very provocative film. Worth your time.

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