Monday, September 27, 2010

"Catfish" is heartwarming, heartbreaking, and a little creepy: B

It's been a very long time since I saw a documentary in the theater (the last one being "Sicko"). I traveled to the hills of Hollywood to see "Catfish," thinking I was in for a scare. After all, the film was advertised as a documentary-gone-wrong, so naturally I expected to see a dead body or something. But there was no horror, no terror, nothing scary. To my relief, actually, because I don't handle scary movies very well. In any case, "Catfish" was falsely advertised; but that was the point of it all, since the story centers around a falsely advertised family on Facebook.

Yaniv Schulman (goes by Nev) is a photographer who lives in New York. His brother Rel and best friend Henry decide to document Nev's interactions with Abby, a talented young painter from Michigan who Nev communicates with through Facebook. Nev sends Abby his photos, and Abby paints them onto a canvas and sends them back to Nev.

Soon, Nev starts to communicate with Angela, Abby's mom, and Megan, Abby's older sister. Nev and Megan begin a virtual courtship, exchanging sweet messages and emails. Megan is a dancer and musician, and gorgeous to boot. Angela speaks to Nev on the phone, claiming that Abby's been selling her art to collectors for thousands of dollars.

One night, as Nev is chatting with Megan, Henry requests that she perform "Tennessee Stud." Once her acoustic performance is uploaded, Nev senses that it can't possibly be Megan. So he goes on YouTube, and discovers that Megan's songs are not really her songs. She's been uploading live versions of female singers, passing their songs off as her own.

This entices the trio to make a surprise trip to Ishpeming, Michigan to visit the family. What they discover isn't horrendous or terrifying, but rather depressing and sad. I don't want to spoil the movie, so I will not reveal who's real and who isn't. But the end result is this feeling of helplessness, and sort of tragic cloud that hung over my head once the lights came on.

I don't think this movie will be fully appreciated in the digital age of 3D, and from what I've read so far, it's getting some mixed reviews. But "Catfish" is an honest film about the nature of dishonesty, and how easy it is to sell the world a lie online. Let's just say, that it might make you reconsider your Friend List.

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