“Catfish” Movie Review

     As “Catfish” begins to unfold, you sense something coming, but you don’t know exactly what, thus creating an uneasy feeling of anticipation.  You see filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost began filming the life of their buddy / brother Nev when they realize a friendship on Facebook is becoming something more.  I suppose a viewer would expect an unsettling conclusion what with an hour of set up that gets you to the source of this unlikely friendship, but what you get is something more.  Catfish is a documentary and the scenario that unspools for the films final third is not only haunting, but quite thought provoking.

     Nev Schulman is a photographer in New York City who shares an office with his filmmaker brother Ariel and friend Henry.  One day, Nev receives a painting in the mail which is a rendition of one of his recently published photographs.  He is led to believe the painting was the work of an 8 year old little girl named Abby who lives in rural Michigan.  As time goes on, Nev begins a Facebook friendship with Abby, her mother Angela, and her older sister Megan.  Dozens more paintings come in the mail from Abby and her mother, Angela, tells Nev about how they have leased space in their town to show Abby’s work.  For Nev , this all seems like a wonderful experience and he feels as though his photographs are serving as inspiration for an 8 year old wonder kind artist.

     Megan, Abby’s older sister, then begins to show her gratitude towards Nev and this begins to materialize into a long distance relationship.  A relationship both want to see go further.  Through her Facebook profile, Nev sees Megan as a beautiful young woman who shares his same interests and seems to be the beginning of the type of life he has been looking for.  They become obsessed with each other and Nev sees only one goal in front of him and thats to see her in person.  Ariel, Henry, and Nev take work in Vail, CO filming a dance show and see this as the perfect opportunity to make their way to Northern Michigan and visit Megan and her family for the first time.

     Since I have a spoiler free policy, I’ll not go into the details of what they find.  Catfish takes a turn you may anticipate, but I don’t think you’ll predict how deep it really is.  The thought provoking nature of this film’s conclusion left me wondering whether Facebook has become what its creator, Mike Zuckerberg, really intended it to become.  I can imagine Facebook can’t be happy over the last several weeks, what with “The Social Network” and now “Catfish” raining on its unstoppable parade.  Remember, Facebook was an idea born in a Harvard dorm to help college students socialize in a more organized and convenient manner.  Now that we all have access to Facebook, I can’t help but to wonder if it too will become a “too much of a good thing” phenomenon.  Just like any good thing, Facebook is being exploited and Catfish really nails this reality.

     More and more, I realize Facebook has become many people’s facade.  With an average of over 200 friends you rarely see, other than minimal internet contact, people can easily create a false image of themselves and are usually not being honest.  Its become important to project an image of happiness and success to your long lost high school friends, co-workers, distant family members, and sometimes acquaintances.  As I peruse my own friends list, I can’t help but to wonder who’s real and who is not.  Are some of these beautiful profile pictures recent or is the person really living on the street?  You see, this is what a viewing of Catfish likely will do to you.  It will make you ask questions you normally may not have asked.  Something the best documentaries will always do. GRADE: A-