I missed this film, referred to by some as "the other Facebook movie", when it played in Raleigh last fall, but just caught it as it's out now on Blu ray, DVD, and available via Amazon Video On Demand. Netflix subscribers will have to wait until next week (February 1st) to rent it because of that damn studio delay deal.
CATFISH (Dirs. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, 2010)
There's a little bit of controversy about this film's validity, but the film makers who appear as themselves swear that it's all real.
On the surface it's a documentary about New York photographer Nev Schulman spending months messaging through texts, Facebook posts, and phone-calls a 19 year old girl he met online.
Nev's brother Ariel and friend Henry Joost film with tiny hand held cameras the odd, and frankly creepy, relationship which started with a 8 year old mailing a painting she did of a photograph of Nev's that was printed in the New York Sun.
Nev friends the young girl whose name is Abby on Facebook, then also adds her mother Angela, her father Vince, and sister Megan who all live in Michigan.
Megan, as evidenced by her many photos on her Facebook page, is a pretty blonde and Nev is quite taken with her, that is, until he finds out that an MP3 she sent him if her playing guitar and singing wasn't her - it was taken from a Youtube clip.
Other claims that Megan made don't stand up to much scrutiny so the troubled trio decide to fly to Michigan and confront the mysterious teenager and her family.
This is where the story description has to end because to go on would spoil the film's supposed big twist - the promotional tagline even says: "Don't let anyone tell you what it is."
It would even be a Spoiler! to tell you what the film's title means so I won't do that either.
It's more out of respect for potential viewers of this film than for the film itself that I won't give it away. CATFISH is fairly involving as it builds to the reveal, but it really doesn't amount to much once it gets there.
It doesn't have insights into what's really hidden behind a Facebook profile or what the addiction of connectivity is doing to society, it pretty much only has whining strivers thinking a pathetic situation deserves documentation.
In one of the key scenes the puzzled protagonists approach Megan's mother's house. Mark Motherbaugh's soundtrack music, mostly effective in other places in the film, gets maddening with the same ominous piano key note being hit over and over. It's an annoying scene that sums up the manipulative methods at play.
If CATFISH is 100% real then it's much ado about nothing; if it's scripted and pre-arranged then it's, well, kinda stupid. These guys aren't completely without compassion, but their film feels as about as cheap as it looks.
Special features: Only a 25 minute Q & A with the film makers.