Thursday, June 2, 2011


Catfish started out as a simple, rather narcissistic film, it seemed like these guys filmed just to have something to film.  But the end result is a timely, compelling slice of life that is definitely worth watching. 

Nev, a talented photographer living in New York, receives an unsolicited package in the mail, a painting reproducing one of his recently published photographs.  The artist, Abby, an 8-year-old girl, continues to send paintings, and she and Nev become Facebook friends.  Eventually, Nev becomes friends with many of Abby's family and friends, including a passionate, long-distance e-romance with her 19-year-old sister Megan.  Nev's brother Rel and their buddy Henry are filmmakers, and talk Nev into documenting his relationship with this family on film.  Eventually, the trio begins to suspect that all may not be as it seems, and they take a road trip to the family's home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 
Megan's photoshopped picture of her and Nev together.
They were right.  Things were not as they seemed.  Without giving away too much, it will suffice to say that Nev does not get to meet the girl of his dreams.  What he does discover is a life lesson, obvious to most, but easily missed when it happens to someone: not everyone on the internet is exactly what she says or shows.  Catfish opens a window on a subculture of Facebook and of internet identity in general that I never see.  Nev and his friends bring it to life in an entertaining, interesting way.

(By the way, I poked around on the internet and found a roaring debate about whether this was real or an elaborate hoax.  The filmmakers insist it's real, exactly as happened.  I don't know.  If it's a fake, it does take something away from the film.  But an interesting cultural artifact nonetheless.)

Bottom line, 2 1/2 stars.

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