30 jul. 2011

My Review: Catfish (8/10)

¨There are those people who are catfish in life, and they keep you on your toes. I thank God for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn’t have somebody nipping at our fin.¨

Catfish is yet another one of those documentaries that really hooks you with its premise and despite not delivering what you expect from the trailers, it still manages to be intense and surprising. The trailer made me think it was yet another faux horror documentary film like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, but this in nothing like that; it is more of a suspenseful drama about online relationships and the way we communicate virtually with our friends. Many Facebook users will probably think twice about beginning a relationship with someone they`ve met online since in today`s virtual world not everyone is whom they seem to be. Catfish can be educational since it serves as a sort of character study on human behavior and interactions between each other. I think Detroit News movie critic, Adam Graham, best described this film when he said it ¨tells a devastating story that couldn’t be more relevant to our times; who we are in real life versus the way we present ourselves online.¨ I think the best way to enjoy this documentary is not knowing much about it before hand so I won’t give too much information away about the plot. Just watch the film first and then read the reviews because Catfish will probably be enjoyed more the less you`ve heard about it.

Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost are aspiring filmmakers who decide to make a film about Ariel`s brother, Nev, who is beginning an interesting online relationship with a family he met in the virtual world. Somehow they thought documenting his relationship with the Wesselman family was an interesting idea so with Nev`s permission they begin to film his story. Nev works as a photographer in New York and one of his pictures gets published for an important magazine. One day he receives a painting of his own picture from an 8 year old girl named Abby. Nev is impressed by the painting and therefore begins to communicate with her mother Angela who claims Abby has made a lot of different paintings and sells them at an art gallery. This is all narrated by Nev since Ariel began documenting the story once his brother already had begun speaking frequently with Angela. Nev sends Abby several pictures and she sends him different paintings of his pictures, and thus their friendship began. He becomes friends with Angela and her family on Facebook and begins to have feelings for Megan, Angela`s nineteen year old daughter with whom he begins to interact frequently. Everything seems to be going well until Nev discovers some of the things Angela and Megan have been telling him aren`t entirely true. Henry, Ariel, and Nev decide to travel from New York to Michigan and surprise Angela and her family in order to try to make sense of everything or uncover their lie.

I do not want to give away anything that happens later in the film but that is basically the set up that the trailer gives us. Many people who have seen this film claim it is all fake, but in my opinion at least half of it is real, at least the part where the kids travel to Michigan to meet Angela. They probably figured out they had a decent story to tell and went back and acted the beginning so we could understand what was going on. Either way, real or faux, the documentary manages to hook our attention and keep us guessing as to what is going to happen next. It also serves really well as a social message as to how far we can go with these virtual interactions. There is a lot to be learned from Catfish and the movie really was satisfying in my opinion as it kept the intensity and thrills throughout the entire 90 minutes. The less you know about the film before seeing it the better. Even though you might predict what might happen when the kids get to Michigan, it`s impossible to predict the reaction that both the Wesselman`s and Nev are going to have. I really thought this was a very interesting documentary and it kept me hooked even though it wasn`t at all what I was expecting from the trailers. 2010 was a great year for documentaries, and perhaps Catfish was forgotten due to all the competition it had, but it still is a documentary worth watching for its story and educational value.

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