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September 24, 2010

Catfish is the type of film that will make its profit because of its clever marketing. The trailer is creepy, mysterious and intriguing as it portrays a young man’s budding and possibly obsessive relationship with a woman and the secrets that she is holding from him. Complete with haunting music and black outs, the trailer ends with the most captivating element of all, the raving reviews from critics citing “don’t let anyone ruin the last 40 minutes of this movie.” After becoming fascinated by the images and words of the trailer I dragged myself to the theater opening morning to be one of the first in Atlanta to see the small independent film. If you’re looking for the “Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never directed,” then keep looking because Catfish isn’t it. If you’re looking for an interesting film that studies the pros and cons of the digital age then look no further.

The beauty of Catfish is how well it plays into this generation’s accessibility to discover or create anything with the click of a mouse as told through the world of a young photographer Nev Schulman. When Nev has a picture printed in the New York Times he receives a painting of the picture from an 8-year-old girl named Abby Wessleman from Michigan. The two strike up a friendship as she continues to paint and send him replicas of his work as well as personal paintings. His brother Ariel Schulman and friend Henry Joost, two filmmakers, encourage the relationship and over an 8 month period through phone conversations, emails and Facebook, Nev befriends Abby’s family along with her half-sister Meg whom he forms a relationship with. That is until Nev starts to notice inconsistencies with Meg and the things she tells him. about herself and family. The trio decide to make a surprise visit to the Wesselman family to find out the truth of who Meg really is leading to a series of shocking revelations.

The film from fainewcomers Joost and the Schulmans passes itself off as a documentary yet a majority of the drama and situations seem too good to be true. Regardless the film’s ability to control all elements from aesthetically pleasing shots to capturing authentically uncomfortable situations is its genius. Catfish could be entirely plotted or entirely real and you’d buy either option without it detracting from the film’s entertainment. Catfish becomes just as self-reflexive as a film as its lead character is about the uncertainty of his situation. Throughout the film Nev questions the reality of Meg and begins to also question his own sanity for making a future and falling in love with someone he only knows from Facebook. In his vulnerable moments he argues the most with Ariel about his choice to continue filming Nev’s actions and personal mistakes reminding his brother and the audience that it’s his romance and life being scrutinized by the camera.

It’s Nev that makes Catfish work as well as it does. He comes off as such an endearingly earnest guy that you laugh along with him, feel his comfort and joy and also his pain. Whether an actor or a real guy who allowed his brother to convince him to subject his self on camera, Nev is believable and you want to follow him and uncover the mysteries for his sake. Catfish isn’t the big thriller that the unnoteworthy critics of the trailer make it out to be. The thrills and suspense comes more from expectations than the actual action. It is however an engaging film with suspenseful aspects that throws in great shocking revelations throughout.

Catfish analyzes virtual reality and what we can do because of the Internet as the trio discovers the family’s whereabouts and personal dealings through Google. The theme is rampant throughout the film by way of Zac Stuart-Pointer’s editing which incorporates Web based images intertwined with the director’s actual footage. The story isn’t new and has been done through films such as The Night Listener; however Catfish does something special by interrogating our current acceptance of the virtual world and audiences should watch the film to experience it.

SEE IT. But no rush, you can wait for the DVD and it will still have the same affect.

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