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Catfish

A movie directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

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A film that's essentially about the evilness of Facebook.

  • Mar 11, 2011
Rating:
+3
*** out of ****

"Catfish" is the kind of movie that would have done even better if it hadn't been advertised so poorly. The trailers make the thing out to be some sort of thriller. What we get when we actually watch the thing is a drama; but luckily, it's a good one with a heart. I do admire "Catfish" for its entertaining qualities; and then again, there are moments where the thing just wasn't all that good. But as a whole, "Catfish" is for sure the movie that you'd expect out of something this deceptive. Perhaps the misleading trailers were part of the film's mystery. Maybe; but that doesn't make that right. I believe that this film will divide viewers; some will love it, some will hate it. And some will scratch their heads wondering whether anything in the film is actually real. I have my doubts. But then again, I've got a feeling that some of it was the real deal. None the less, the mystery, as always, only adds to the fascination. And while this is not the most fascinating documentary film out there, it's still an honest and realistic character study. While the film can be a bit of a drag at moments, the thing just felt very touching throughout. It redeems itself through its sense of humor and its sense of humanity; and there's some surprisingly dramatic moments scattered throughout. Overall, I suppose it's worth a look. Again, some may not like it. But "Catfish" is as flawed as it is whimsical in its execution. And I do admire the truth behind the film's message, and what it says about internet relationships. This is the OTHER movie to be released in 2010, about Facebook. In case you didn't know, the far superior OTHER movie about Facebook is "The Social Network", which does some of what "Catfish" does, but on a lot of different, seemingly new levels. Both films touch the human connection in some way. "Catfish" just doesn't do it in a particularly memorable way. But then again, I can just watch it and like it; and that's what I did. It was a funny, entertaining, and touching flick. It is definitely worth a watch, especially if you're somewhat of a tech-lover (why do you think I saw it?) like me. If you're like me, then you'll know what to think of "Catfish" when it is done. Again, it's pretty flawed. But that doesn't mean it ain't fun.

A man has been communicating with a family he has never met on the social networking site of Facebook; and he's been doing it for quite some time. The closest he has to a real, human relationship with any of the members is phone conversations and romantic tension between him and the eldest daughter of the family. One day, our hero becomes suspicious that his online friends aren't telling the truth, and he and his documentary-filmmaker friends take a trip to the house of the family to expose the truth. I won't tell you what the "big twist" is, but I will assure you that's it's more disappointing than it needs to be. "Catfish" admittedly works better as a human drama than it ever will a thriller (I say this since it made itself out to be one of those). The thing is an emotional roller-coaster ride one moment, and a quiet, affectionate human drama the next. I will admit that I enjoyed it. But I won't say that it left me in complete awe. The thing works perfectly for the first two acts, and then goes a little down-hill with the less-than-surprising grand finale. Don't get me wrong; the thing is still fairly entertaining even when it's being inferior to its better moments. All I'm trying to point out is that this movie isn't perfect, and the twists are pretty disappointing. As I said, I still liked it. Nothing can ruin a good time; and "Catfish" is a good time at its near best. It's sneaky, and exploitative of the struggles of communication. The message here seems to be: "Online communication sucks. Please make friends in real life before you start talking "sexy talk" with a forty-year old woman". It's a good message given that Facebook and Myspace alike have both ruined what we perceive as real communication. It's kind of sad to think this stuff happens; but then again, I see it every day of my life. I guess I have to admire "Catfish" for being a film about something I've seen before. But then again, we've all seen the evilness of Facebook. I just wish that aspect could be taken out of the system for good. But humans will be humans, and the protagonist of "Catfish" finds that out the hard way.

Nev Schulman turns out to be a pretty likable guy. His film persona, which may or may not be exaggerated for the movie alone, is endearing and interesting to study solely as a character. Plus, his smile is freaking huge. Yes, I took the time to notice that. Or maybe "taking time" isn't the right way to put that kind of thing; you sort of notice it as the film goes along. Schulman gets the most screen-time since he's essentially the sole star of this movie, but that's far from a problem. I like the character of Nev whether he's this kind of guy in reality or not. He runs the acting show, and he's worthy of a second round at cinema. Perhaps a future documentary? Who knows? If it never happened, then I would know why; because this film makes "being ominous" its one and only duty. Oddly, I am OK with that.

There are without a doubt some damn fine documentaries that came out of 2010's movie year; all being documentaries that this film just shouldn't attempt to mess with. You've got "Restrepo", you've got "Exit Through the Gift Shop", and then you've got "Catfish". The essentially approach to this film would be to expect a thriller out of the thing. Let me tell you up front that "Catfish" is in no way a thriller; it's a drama. Strangely enough, it succeeds at being a drama with a surplus of humanistic qualities. In the end, these human qualities redeem the film of its narrative flaws. The film made me laugh, made me frown, and if I were extremely emotional; it probably could have made me cry as well. The film has some admittedly decent emotional resonance; all of which is forgettable since I didn't come nigh CLOSE to crying, and most of it just seems unworthy of true, blue memory. With that being said, this is a pretty good documentary anyways. It gives you a bit more than you asked for as well as something much, much different. I wonder what "Catfish" would have been like if it WERE a thriller. Isn't it pretty to think that it could have been better? Well, yes; most certainly. But it's good enough as it is, and it has enough (emotional) substance to keep most viewers entertained. And in this world, entertainment is essentially enough. It's not often that a film this flawed can still be genuinely good; and it's damn nice to see that someone can actually make a work as quietly affectionate as this one. It's a smart, cool little movie. If it sounds interesting to you (from what I described instead of what the dumb-ass advertising made it out to be), then it probably is. I suppose that therefore, you should be seeing this movie.

Do not so much as look at the IMDB page for this film. Don't even skim a synopsis. Either one could give out this film's entire plot in a nut-shell; and that's not good. I suppose that a lot was revealed ahead of time, and therefore my experience wasn't as good as it probably should have been. But this film is still solid anyways. It's a good documentary and a good character study. It provides humor, drama, and sorrow all in one sitting. It may not agree with everyone, but it agrees with me. It has good acting, a good message, and an admittedly intriguing premise. It's just not as down-right brilliant as I expected it to be. But there is indeed a reason for people to like it; as there was a reason for me to like it as well. It may seem like I'm complaining a lot of about what the film doesn't have, but a lot of the time I did indeed look at the better half of the production. It ultimately had more "good" than it did "bad". It's enjoyable not for its mystery, but for its pure craftsmanship. I don't really care if it's real or not; "Catfish" was entertaining. And it goes out of its way to tell a story. I admire that; and I hope that it's not the last we see out of the filmmakers that put it together. This could be the start of something new. Oh, think of the wondrous possibilities.

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March 11, 2011
Why have I not seen this.
 
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More Catfish reviews
review by . September 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
That the authenticity of "Catfish" is in question is both the film's greatest strength and its biggest weakness. Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost have repeatedly claimed that their documentary isn't a hoax, and while I'd like to believe them, I admit that I have my doubts; some of it comes off as a little too dramatic, almost as if the situation were intentionally manufactured for the sake of telling a cautionary tale of internet romance. That being said, the definition …
review by . February 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
“The internet is always lying to you.”   - personal advice to me from Mike (Cruft), whom I initially met online in 2003.      When Catfish started stirring the waters (tee hee) of art house theaters here in Los Angeles I did not know what it was about. After I caught wind from a tweet praising it, I inquired – she, the Tweeter, said she couldn’t tell me anything other than it was good and I must get to a theater ASAP to see it. Well, art house …
Quick Tip by . January 04, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I hate to see people embarrassed even when they deserve it. When it was over I wound up disliking the deluded as much as the deluders.
review by . September 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The original Facebook Movie
CATFISH   Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman   Starring Nev Schulman      Nev: They didn’t fool me.  They just told me things and I didn’t question them.  That’s not fooling.      There are still people out there who consider meeting people from the internet to be a pretty dangerous thing. They might not be who they say they are or, worse yet, they could be a serial killer or something equally frightening.  …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie

Wiki

The slipperiness of truth and lies on the Internet gets played out in unexpected ways in the documentary Catfish. When Nev Schulman receives a painting based on a photograph of his from an 8-year-old girl named Abby in Michigan, he doesn't realize this is going to lead to a long-distance romance with Abby's older sister Megan… and that this romance, conducted over the phone and the Internet, will lead to something far more troubling. It would be unfair to reveal more details of Catfish, as the process of discovery is one of its pleasures--but even if you do know the sequence of events, the movie's ultimate reward is not the revelation of secrets but the surprising and very human interactions of the movie's last third. While there is a thriller aspect to the movie--and the suspense at points is indeed nail biting--the revelation isn't the bang that Hollywood movies lead you to expect. Instead,Catfish turns sad, unsettling, and sure to inspire arguments about motivations and human nature.--Bret Fetzer
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Details

Genre: Documentary
Release Date: 17 September 2010 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 87 min
Studio: Universal
First to Review
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