Catfish (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
5Jan/110

Catfish (2010)

ANDREW LIKEOver 2010 we had a number of feature films that questioned reality, and a number of documentaries that looked at what was real and said "so what?".  Catfish is another one of those documentaries that contains events that may have been just as orchestrated as a feature film.  This, of course, flies right in the face of the standard idea that documentaries are based on "real" events that enfold in real time.

Well, the people in Catfish are real.  The events occur in mostly real time, and they reach an emotional truth that most feature films lack.  Whether the creators, directors, and stars constructed this series of events is irrelevant.  By the time the credits rolled, I had a lot more to think about than whether the idea of "making love" is something that most people would actually use or not.

Catfish is the documentary about a group of New York friends, centered mostly around Nev Schulman.  He's a budding photographer who receives a painted copy of one of his photographs in the mail one day.  The painter is an eight year old girl from Michigan named Abby Pierce.  Nev, who comes off as a pretty nice person in this film, decides to send her a thank you letter and strikes up a relationship with the girls family.  Abby's mom, Angela, strikes up a friendship with Nev as well and mediates the Facebook exchanges between her daughter and Nev.

This is Nev, and he isn't quite prepared for what will be happening next.

Things get a little spicier when Nev starts hearing from and exchanging pleasantries with Abby's older sister Megan.  She's a very attractive dancer and singer, and the two of them seem to form a strong connection over the internet and their phones that seems to be spiraling into physical desire.  So Nev keeps promising to visit Megan and vice versa, all while Abby continues to paint pictures and Angela talks with Nev.

So far it seems like an idyll set of relationships until Nev's friend Henry and brother Ariel begin doing some investigative work into the paintings and the songs that Megan sings.  It seems like she is taking other people's work and claiming it as her own, with one particularly damning clue of her posting a thank you for the recording on another artist's Facebook page.  This sends Nev and crew into a full on investigative frenzy, ending in a trip to Michigan that contains a number of revelations that you may be able to guess and a few that you will have no clue about.

Because so much of this film hinges on that trip, I must step aside from the synopsis and provide an emotional overlook into why it doesn't matter if this film is a "real" documentary or not.  Even if the events were arranged, Nev and everyone else manage to orchestrate a situation that produces a genuine level of empathy that is not typically generated.  A lot of this hinges on the family life of the Pierce's, and speaks volumes to the way that we decide to communicate these days.

This is Angela. She'll already plays a big part in Nev's life, but not in the way he thinks.

This film, along with The Social Network and We Live In Public, wonderfully comment on our new ways of connecting.  In the end, Catfish proves to be the most empathetic of the three.  It knows that many people reach over the internet to find someone out of loneliness, and that it's so easy to position yourself as a specific kind of person to fill a mutual emotional need that the other may be feeling as well.  The events culminating in the conclusion of Catfish left me reeling at the way a lie can help people more than the truth can.

We hope for the best when we place ourselves bare for other people to examine and, hopefully, return in kind.  Catfish understands this in a way that does not come off as sneaky and manipulative, but necessarily surprising.  With this review over and the mystery of Catfish mostly intact, I urge everyone to give this peculiar little film a try.  You might find yourself touched in ways that you couldn't possibly expect.

Catfish (2010)
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.

Posted by Andrew

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