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  • Colin George11 October 2010
    "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 dangerous—But I'll say no more. I don't want to spoil anything.
  • 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 ... =]
  • 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-
  • Don't be put off by the jumpy, seemingly disconnected scenes at the beginning of this film. I nearly hit the eject button thinking that this was nothing more than an amateurish attempt at an 'artsy' film. Just stay with it and you will soon be drawn into an intriguing real life story with a surprisingly emotional twist at the end. The film stirs up a range of emotions that you rarely experience in todays high budget, digitized action flicks. I wish that I could tell you more but that would spoil the whole thing! I will only say this; the film could not have been done prior to the days of social networking where "friends' can pour out their innermost thoughts for the world to read. A very humanistic portrayal of the strengths, talent and weaknesses behind the faces that you see every day at the grocery store or walking down the street. See it and resist the temptation to 'tell all' when you recommend this excellent documentary film to others.
  • Warning: 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.
  • Warning: 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.
  • It's authenticity will remain in question. And if it is indeed real, the motivation of the filmmakers themselves are unclear.

    But there is a truth in Catfish that reflects a lot about ourselves. For most, the Internet is a place to merely extend their social life. But for some, it could be the only place where they could find it. We are called to be mindful of these people. This is a movie for our time. 4/5 Stars

    Note: The trailer is indeed misleading, which may have caused much disappointment to viewers with a specific expectation. To those who has not seen the trailer and desire to watch the movie, avoid the trailer.
  • 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 ****
  • Most human beings have two eyes. One left eye, and one right eye. Catfish pries open your third eye above the two you were born with. That eye is the eye to sense bulls*** from a mile away. It makes you think about the people you associate with online, and the people you come across with on Facebook, the oh-so popular networking site.

    Upon finishing this film, I was unsure of what to think of it. "Real or fake?" was the question that popped in my head. Could this be just another false documentary teaching us a lesson, but using actors to portray realistic people? Or was this an authentic documentary showcasing one person's real life experience on the site, and having his brother and friend film it all? My opinion is that this is reminiscent of a reality show. Some scenes are fiction, but somethings are authentic. I really can't say if this is real or fake. But I assume 70% or less is real.

    The plot is one of those like Paranormal Activity where you can't reveal too much or the whole thing is ruined. Basically, Young New York photographer Yaniv Schulman's life is put on film by brother Ariel Schulman and friend Henry Joost. They show his relationship with a supposedly eight year old girl on Facebook named Abby who is a child prodigy when it comes to painting. Yaniv will send pictures to Abby, and is told Abby paints them with remarkable talent.

    As time passes, Niv shows extreme interest for Abby's family, including her alleged half-sister Megan, and the mother Angela. Once he uncovers some evidence I won't spoil, he goes out to meet the family. There is when the movie becomes a total enjoyment.

    Whether fact or fiction, the film makes you think. It succeeds in making you ponder or contemplate the people you associate with on the web. Being an avid reviewer, a social networker, a Tweeter, a Facebooker, a Youtube personality I wonder who is watching my videos. Of course my personal information is nothing but private unless I have a strict build up with the person I discuss with. I haven't ran into any true problems on the web. I consider myself extremely grateful and lucky for that.

    Catfish succeeds in being an entertaining time capsule of what will soon be the once popular social network. Facebook will eventually die out just like Myspace, but we will have this film to look back on. While 2010 had one more movie based on the site called The Social Network, Catfish deals with Facebook and it's people. TSN was all about the creation of the site, and the problems Zuckerberg and his friends ran into. That was a totally different film, and well worthy of the Golden Globe wins. Catfish is a one of a kind species that shouldn't be thrown back into the water.

    Starring: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman, Yaniv Schulman. Directed by: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost.
  • Warning: 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.
  • neilblender21 October 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    Spoiler.

    I had a lot of doubts about the truthfulness of this movie from about 10 minutes in. I knew there was a "twist" and guessed what it was pretty quickly. Still could have made for an interesting story if it were true. Personally, I think it was completely made up. As I said, I had my doubts right away. However, when they picked up the mail at the farm, my doubts were absolutely confirmed. First, how did the post cards just happen to be there after they had been in Vail for two weeks? There was only one other piece of mail in the mailbox so it's not like no one had picked up the mail in a while. Second, why where there post office stamps about returning to sender why they were still in the mailbox? That gets stamped by the post office after you write "return to sender" on it and stick it back in your mail box.

    Bottom line, the movie is completely made up.
  • Fox Garrison7 January 2011
    Warning: 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.
  • Warning: 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 anything but.

    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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Let me start by saying that I really don't mind when movies are bad, I may even just laugh at it and move on. This is the first movie in my life where I really feel like I deserve my money back. I honestly wish the movie makers would send me $10.50 because this movie was not only utter garbage but the advertising is deceptive. There is nothing thrilling or exciting about this movie. All of my friends that I was at the movie with where playing games on the phones for the last 40 minutes which are supposedly the most thrilling, the ones that will "stay with you for days after you leave". Please! ***may contain spoilers*** This movie was pathetic about a bunch of pathetic people that hang out on facebook making stuff up. People lie on facebook?? Really? Is this supposed to come as a shock to anybody??? It is a worthless movie and a complete waste of time. I hope to save some people the time and money that I will never get back. Do not go see this movie!!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I recently saw Catfish, Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. I wish I could say that this "reality thriller" or as noted by most a "mockumentary", was worth the free ticket I used. But the whining of Yaniv Schulman at his director for "pushing" him through the film was anything but dramatized. Of course the initial plot was very intriguing, a guy starts to fall for a woman he met online. He talks to her, and her family, and even buys paintings from the 9 year old sister. Going into the film thinking it was a thriller like most things I had read beforehand, I was holding high expectations that were soon shot down. But unfortunately all I could think of toward then end was man I hope some huge Hillbilly comes out of the barn later in the movie with a banjo and someone dies. The "actors" in this movie, as I try to portray this as a documentary, were anything but real life. The emotions of everyone except for the mother , Angela, were dull and put on. I do give it to Angela for having both the creepiness and sadness to make you have a different outlook of her. But I don't have much to say of Yaniv who throughout the movie was trying to portray, very unbelievably at that, a heterosexual man. There was constant reading which made him hard to believe he was in a documentary.

    This movie isn't even worth wasting a free code for one of those DVD boxes, let alone seven bucks at your local theater. Since there really wasn't a climax to the movie since you go in knowing that the woman he fell for was fake, and there's really no resolution to the film I cant even recommend this film to high-schoolers looking for a place to make-out, for fear of death by boredom.
  • The Awe is from the reality uncovered behind the mystery the first half of the film is devoted to investigating. There are a few moments of fantastic surprise.

    The Revulsion one will likely discover occurs during the thinking/discussion that occurs after the film, when they realize the amount of manipulation by the filmmakers on both their subjects within the film and the audience. With their endless pasted-on smirks, its hard to discern which of the two they perceive to be the bigger dupes. Unlike films (like the comparably classic MAN BITES DOG) that explore similar themes of manipulation and non-fiction/fiction blurring with intelligence and dignity, these filmmakers have taken a story with a real humane potential and bankrupted their morals to create a sensational tabloid-like experience, more likely to titillate certain members of the Youtube Generation/make a few bucks/create some buzz.

    Inevitably, Catfish is a challenge to review because to continue to discuss why the film inspires such varied emotions would be to give too much away. And to encourage one to see the film in order to further the conversation would be to promote the careers of people who have no business meddling in non-fiction (or is it? In this case, who cares?).

    If only there was a way to see it for free... I'm sure the Youtube Generation can think of something.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The whole time I'm watching this movie I didn't believe any of it. Here you have tech savvy guys that clearly know how to use a computer and you expect me to believe they didn't know how to use google?? They supposedly believed the stories they were being told by a sad homely old woman in Michigan. The woman claimed her daughter was a famous painter, yet these three tech savvy guys never bothered to google her name? The entire movie just fell apart for me because I realized the guys were just acting. So it's clearly not a documentary except for the fact that the woman in the second half of the movie was being documented. The issue with the movie is that it sells itself as a documentary, yet the actor has a grin on his face the entire movie, never disappointed or sad that he's been scammed. The moral of the story is don't pay money to hear this story.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw the TV spots for "Catfish" and had to see it. I know a lot of people are criticizing the movie right now, and I don't understand why. I think that while it's not what you might expect, it's still a great movie.

    A lot of people want to debate whether or not the movie is real. If it's not real, it very well could've been. I'm sure this kind of stuff happens all the time, and people don't even realize how common it is. That's why I'm glad this movie was made, to help open people's eyes to the truth about social networks…while they can be used as a means of harmless communication between friends and acquaintances, they can also be used in deceptive and dangerous ways, too.

    I would definitely recommend seeing this movie!
  • ashishagrawal17 October 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    Unfortunately, I was not aware that a movie which is made using a handy cam with no actual twist can be released in theaters. This movie starts with documentary style and video shot using handy-cam. We all friends were guessing in the whole movie that now some good twist will come, some real exciting will happen, but the movie is deadly boring and awful. This kind of movie, I believe any person can make at home with a normal script. Neither the script nor the direction is worth watching. I mean horror is no where, not even anything exciting. I believe there should be specific guidelines to consider and allowing any movie as movie. I really thought i wasted my 11 dollars in watching this movie. Pathetic!!!
  • eddiendawood27 December 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    The trailers in the theater lead me to believe that it would be be a suspense/thriller type of movie. When I saw the film it was totally a drama film about a crazy woman's life drama. When I saw the trailer, I thought it was about a young guy meeting a girl online and then in person, but when he met them in person something horrible was going to happen (like the blair witch project). It turned out to be a crazy old lady trying to get some attention because of her own boring life. After, the guy in the film find out he was speaking to a fake, he continued to try and figure why she was a fake. Well, the movie is not suspense, scary, thriller, or anything close to it, I which the marketing would have made the trailer as drama and not suspense, very misleading.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Ironically I found this to be a very disingenuous and mean-spirited film from the start.

    Initially the film makers make the case for an adult man striking up an innocent online mutual appreciation with an 8 year old girl who also appears to be a talented painter. Very early on we are given several scenes where the main participant and his friends are filming their surprise at clues that all is not as it appears with the little girls story. But their body language and giggly, childish demeanour suggest to me that they have already done much of the "investigating" that would later come to pass in the narrative. Their big joyous grins and covering of stifled titters at the situation suggests a prior set-up of these early moments on film. This isn't a problem had they then continued their google detective work and simply exposed their stalker-slash-victim as just another online Baron Munchausen. But we are later treated to a cringe-worthy 'look through your fingers if you dare' scene where the central participant reads private texts between himself and the beautiful older sister of the girl whom he has struck up a sexting relationship with online. By now we know, that they know the whole thing is a fake, so why we are given this scene where he lays shirtless in bed reading aloud and mocking masturbatory texts between himself and the target, knowing all the long this online profile is a lie? It is very unsettling. Who is fooling who here? When they meet the target, we are given enough evidence to deduce that it is in fact not the youngest daughter who is the painter in the family, that would be the plain, unglamorous mother who is not a slim, ethereal beauty as imagined in her portrait. The older daughter and love interest is of course nowhere to be seen and can't be reached by telephone. We deduce she is entirely a romantic fantasy persona of the woman's creation.

    Her deception is of course deplorable, but the film crew go on to perpetuate this online fantasy as much as she has, and furthermore have hunted her down, attempting to confront her but afraid of the consequences. After several polite but awkward meetings, it isn't until an hour in to the film that we see any hint of humility from the film makers, where the truth about the her online fantasy life finally comes out in the "open", well - filmed from afar without her knowledge. Later she is interviewed on camera and pretty much bares her soul to these virtual strangers in a tearful full confessional. Yes, she was a foolish woman, but this took guts and at no point did she ever seem antagonistic or volatile after her lies had been exposed. Let me be very clear - The woman was a fraud. She seems to be leading a very hard life looking after a young daughter and two severely disabled step-sons. Finding a creative outlet in painting to relieve her daily grind, and taking an online flirtation WAY too far appears to be her biggest 'crime.' I feel like they catfished this woman as much as she catfished them. I sympathise with her as a struggling mother and carer of disabled relatives, and not with the three smug, smirking New York art student types who in the end exploited her as much as she initially fooled them. They knowingly perpetuated this fake relationship as much as she did. And early on in the film they make it pretty clear what is going on when they discover the songs the daughter character had passed off as her own work are simply ripped from youtube by other artists - they could have ended it there, but they were clearly too invested in making a global mockery of this unfortunate and foolish woman, when the sensible thing would've been to just gently cut communications with her online, or at least curtail them to simple passing pleasantries. Instead they continued a pseudo-romance and sexting relationship with her, all the time filming a condescending one-sided interaction just to for their own amusement and a juicier documentary.

    I felt a strength of character from her that I never picked up from the chattering, giggling immature film makers. To open up about her silly lies so candidly on camera is a very brave and honourable thing to do. Ironically, I never felt like we got to know the film makers as truthfully as we did her. Although the film makers put themselves in this unusual situation and took it way further than most would, they always had the security blanket of the camera, they were never laid bare like their subject was. I applaud her for allowing them to make this documentary.

    What I take away from this movie is that today, many people are out for themselves and whether you're posing as a pretty young singer/artist online or exploiting strangers for your student film career - you had better be on guard and be out for yourself because someone out there is looking to f*ck you over unless you do it to them first. Neither party gets my full sympathy, but if anything I side with the woman as the more innocent party since she was clearly already a very damaged person with immense responsibilities and chronic low self-esteem. A trio of young, single privileged Millenials in New York who perpetuated and inflamed this woman's fantasy deserve nothing from this, but I hope they at least learnt from the experience and put their talents to better use in the future.
  • Marketed as an indie documentary about a mysterious facebook relationship, "Catfish" is actually a profound meditation on loneliness in the age of computer-assisted social networking. Nev (pronounced NEEV), the focus of this documentary, is a young, attractive photographer who is contacted via facebook by an 8 year-old girl who has painted a rendition of a photo of his that has appeared on the cover of a magazine. In rapid succession, Nev befriends, via facebook, the girl, her mother, her sister, and a group of their friends, all of whom live somewhere in Michigan. While in Colorado on a filming assignment, Nev, his brother and their friend (who are filming this documentary as well) begin to question the veracity of the emails and phone calls Nev has been receiving from this family. They rashly decide to go to Michigan to meet the family and get to the bottom of the mysterious facebook friendship that has blossomed. What they find is more poignant than shocking, and it will force you to confront the ways in which technology in the 21st century is ultimately powerless against genuine loneliness.
  • Two huge problems with this movie:

    1) It is advertised as having a "Sixth Sense" type of surprise twist that you "must see" before someone "spoils it" for you and that you will be taken on an "emotional roller-coaster ride" for the last 40 minutes. None of that is true, there is not a big bomb dropped at the end. What happens is slowly built up to. To use the roller-coaster analogy, two thirds of the movie is a slow ascent to the top, then the last third is a straight, unsatisfying, plateau. I was not totally surprised or shocked at the last part of the movie (they basically hint at it long before) and it was a HUGE let down if you go by the movie's advertising campaign.

    2) This is not a documentary; at least a large part of it is not. The story has a lot of holes and you can catch the main guy acting, but there are also several technical give aways. This is supposedly shot with several cameras at the same time, all of varying sizes that produce various degrees of picture quality. One of them is of extremely high quality, very professional looking, and another looks like an ordinary small photo camera that happens to shoot video. At one point, we are supposed to believe we are looking from the angle of the cheap camera, yet the image is high quality!!! In a couple of places they used sound effects to help the story, and if they embellished the sound, you have to ask, what else did they embellish? I have used one of the cameras they have and when you are holding it and you move to place yourself in a better position, there's a certain look to that movement. The way their camera moved looked completely fabricated and unnatural, just like "Cloverfield", trying to achieve the "documentary" feel. In several spots, the lighting was just too good for something that was supposedly shot as it happened. The framing constantly looks heavily planned. There are some out of focus shots that are meant to suggest a "raw footage" feel, but were obviously on purpose.

    I would probably had liked this movie much better if it had been released as a movie shot in documentary style and they didn't have this whole charade about it being real and about how awesome the ending is supposed to be. It has its moments, but there's no need to insult people's intelligence.
  • ...at least, of the 9 films i've seen so far. this one packs quite an emotional wallop. this had me cracking up at times and on the edge of my seat at others. a gentleman remarked during the excellent q+a after the film: "screw blair witch and paranormal activity - this is real terror," and i would have to agree. what's so terrifying about this movie? you'll have to see it to find out, because to spoil the secrets of this film would rob it of its power. it's a journey to embark on with the filmmakers/friends, ariel schulman, his brother nev, and their friend henry joost. where it takes you is both shocking and strangely moving. this is the reason i keep coming back to sundance - to see films like this, that are genuinely surprising.

    oh, and the title is explained in the final 10 minutes of the film and lends it a new and powerful meaning. thought-provoking stuff, indeed.

    this film, i've heard, is going to get picked up. avoid the reviews and just go see it when it plays in your town.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's been a few months since I saw this film, and I've had some time to process it. As plenty of folks have noted, the trailer is absolutely misleading -- almost funny, since the entire PREMISE of the film is "dishonesty" (something the filmmakers express horror at). This is not a shocker, not a horror film, the "reveal" is not surprising at all.

    I have also noticed that nobody (here or in paid professional reviews) has noted that filmmakers Henry Joose and Ariel Schulman are most famous for making the "fake documentary" horror film, "Paranormal Activity" (and the subsequent big money sequels). The original was a scary little low budget ($11,000) indie film, that was picked up by Steven Spielberg and shot to fame and money for the two filmmakers. That was in 2007; the events of this documentary happened inbetween the first two Paranormal films. I guess time weighed heavy on their hands. It also explains why the three young adult men seem to have oodles of free time and no apparent form of gainful employment.

    As noted, it is hard to believe extremely smart, college-educated, tech-savvy young hipsters in Manhattan/Brooklyn were naive enough to believe this story (about a child prodigy painter in Michigan) and her hottie teen sister, without the slightest research or fact checking -- or that they had their cameras turned from the earliest part of the story.....at a point where there was no reason to believe some big "mystery" would ever be at the other end. For all they could have known early on, this would be nothing but filming brother Yaniv ("Nev") Schulman's internet hook-up with a teenager. (Ew.)

    So in fact, my gut feeling is that everything here is staged, and even re-created, to make the documentary -- not too shocking in a pair of guys who filmed a "cinema verite" horror story and made millions off it. The only real part is that I think at some point, they DID get a copy of a painting (done by the adult Angela, not her 9 year old daughter) in the mail. I think that got them interested enough to start communicating with the family, and after that, the idea of exploiting them for a film mocking Facebook relationships must have seemed irresistible.

    That just gives the whole thing a glaze of slick, urban contempt for "those awful low-class people in Mid-America" (who are so unlike cool, honest Brooklyn hipsters) and makes the film come across as exploitive and cruel. Angela never really scammed them; she wanted some attention and some innocent (non-physical) flirting with a handsome New Yorker half her age. There is no indication she asked them for money, even though her situation (caring for her husband's two profoundly retarded and handicapped teenage sons) appears to be just wretched.

    Clearly, Angela has some serious mental problems as well, that they also exploited. Flirting is one thing; flirting in the identity of your OWN teenage (estranged) daughter online is deeply troubling, even incestuous.

    I also agree with some other posters that the final speech, given by Angela's husband, is both scripted and fake. He must be the most tolerant man in Michigan, to allow 3 creepy strangers into his home, hear about their association with his wife, expose his handicapped sons in a very unflattering way and then confess all this stuff about his wife. Why isn't he furious? Why doesn't he throw them off his property?

    The storyline of the homely, unattractive person (almost always a woman, though there is always Cyrano de Bergerac for the fellows) who masquerades in secret, to able to flirt with a handsome/beautiful and unobtainable partner, is a very old one and very popular in films and novels. Nothing new here, except the allusions to the internet and that Facebook lets you lie to people (yawwwn....). Like we didn't know that.
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