“Catfish” – 2010. Dir. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

With Nev Schulman, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost

“Look – I know you’re trying to make this movie.  But I’m the movie and you’re telling me what to do with my life.  Just respect that.”

As my protest to “The Social Network” being released yesterday – which is directed by one of my favorite directors David Fincher and written by my favorite writer Aaron Sorkin – I decided to see the documentary “Catfish”; the Facebook movie that needed to be made.  There is a lot of hype/buzz circling this film.  It hit Sundance and made a very big splash (bad pun).  The word of mouth and critics blurbs got me very excited.

The film follows photographer Nev Schulman who shares a studio in New York City with his older brother Ariel and they’re friend Henry Joost – who are both aspiring filmmakers.  Some of Nev’s pictures have been published in New York trade magazines and news papers and one day Nev gets an oil painting in the mail from an 8 year old girl who lives in Michigan.  The painting is beautiful, and it’s a painting of one of Nev’s printed photographs.

Nev becomes friends with Abby on Facebook, Abby’s mom Angela, Abby’s dad Vince and then Abby’s older half sister Megan who is 19 year old musician.  Nev networks with all of Abby’s family and then even her extended family.  Essentially Nev becomes apart of Abby’s “Facebook family”.  As his network with the family blossoms, he begins talking to Abby’s Mom and Abby’s sister Megan on the phone.

Nev and Megan begin to talk, and talk intimately about life and other things.  Their conversation starts moving more and more to the next level.  Then the three boys get a gig in Colorado to tape a dance festival, and since they live in New York – and Colorado is closer to Michigan then New York, the three men start a journey to Michigan to see Megan, Abby, and the rest of the “facebook family”.

Ariel (looking like DDL), in the back Henry Joost and to the right, Nev.

As the boys travel to Michigan, there becomes a lot of continuity errors with things that Megan/Abby/the Mother tell Nev – and as they do research online, they begin to doubt a lot of the authenticity of what Nev’s being told.

About an hour into this film, I wasn’t sure what to think of a lot of it – but I really, really liked it and felt it was a very important film.  By the end of the film (run-time is 88 minutes or so) – I was very unhappy with the finished product.

It’s hard to describe what happened between the time when I thought it was an important film to  the time when the credits started to roll because I don’t want to give anything away about the film.  As the poster and ads have said: “Don’t let anyone tell you about this film”.

Abby's older sister Megan.
Abby's older sister Megan.

It is a very effective film, and it really is a cautionary tale about the information age, and “social networking” – there are things in life that would not have happened without the ability of tools such as Facebook, MySpace and other websites of that nature.  I don’t want to say I’m totally anti Facebook (I do have one, feel free to friend request me) but I do think that Facebook is much like anything else – it gets taken advantage of.

This film is too long.  It’s over stretched to get a feature length run time, and by the end of the film it just became redundant.  I wanted to walk out, but I knew there was only a few more minutes of the film and I wanted to stick with it.  This film would have been much more powerful and effective if the run time was around 45 – 60 minutes.  Plus Brett Ratner was an executive producer – so that didn’t help.

It’s not that it’s the fault of the actual filmmakers – I thought they came across something so rare and unique while the cameras were rolling that they knew they had something special – which they did.  It’s just that the narrative is turned upside down when the film reaches it prestige.  The protagonist seems to change slightly – it’s rather strange – but so is life.

This is an important film that I do recommend to you – even though I nearly hated the finished product – it’s still an important film to see.  This may have been one of the first films that I have seen that has really appropriately dealt with the second act of the information age.

This is a very difficult film to review.  There is a lot I like I about it, and I really do feel that everyone should see this film – especially younger people – but then when the movie was over – I was really upset with how the ending of the film was handled.  One thing is for sure – all the buzz and hype around this film will make it very anti climactic for you.  It is really a shame – this could have been the film that defined the new decade.

The title of the film is explained to you at the end of the film.  But I don’t buy the explanation that they give to us.  To me a catfish represents a bottom feeder, a truly disgusting and pathetic creature; which I think bears fruit to the ending of the film.

Rating: 5.5/10

Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

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