Review: Catfish keeps you hooked

Review: Catfish keeps you hooked

Source: AssociatedPress

By: Christy Lemire

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Movie Title

Review: Catfish keeps you hooked


Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost

Star Cast

Yaniv Schulman

The problem with writing about Catfish is that you have to write about Catfish ? and potentially divulge the many twists the documentary has in store.

Still, you've got to say something. So this is probably going to be a short review.

Know this much, at least: You should see the film, and you should force yourself to learn as little about it as possible beforehand.

Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost didn't know what they were in for, either. They started out making one kind of movie and in no time found themselves lens-deep in something completely different. Producer Andrew Jarecki, who directed the Oscar-nominated 2003 documentary Capturing the Friedmans, found himself in a similarly unpredictable situation; the results here are similarly breathtaking.

That they and their subject, Ariel's brother Yaniv Schulman, followed this path wherever it would lead ? and let us go along for the ride ? is what's so exciting about this genre. These guys just picked up their hand-held cameras and started shooting, and while that's often an exercise in useless narcissism, Catfish actually has some revelations as it moves from comedy to romance to places beyond that we shouldn't mention.

Yaniv (or Nev, as he's known) is a photographer in his mid-20s living in New York City. He strikes up an innocuous, long-distance friendship with 8-year-old Abby, who saw one of his photographs in her local Michigan newspaper, made a painting of it and had her mom, Angela, ship it to him. Soon a Facebook and phone relationship develops not only with Angela and Abby but also with Abby's older half-sister, Megan. Nev also becomes Facebook friends with other people in the family's circle.

More packages arrive with more of Abby's paintings and other gifts. Ariel (or Rel) and their friend Henry keep shooting, thinking maybe they'll make a movie about this art prodigy. Nev is understandably intrigued and flattered by the attention ? somehow, the immediacy of Facebook makes this all seem natural rather than creepy ? but he really gets hooked once he starts to develop a more intimate bond with the beautiful, blonde Megan. In fact, he's so interested in her, he makes a road trip to see her ? with Rel and Henry and their cameras in tow.

And this is probably where we should stop.

Nev, however, has no boundaries, which is a huge reason Catfish works. He's great-looking and engaging with a bright and ready smile. He's willing to make himself the butt of jokes or bare his soul for the cameras, and that vulnerability is not only a reliable source of laugh-out-loud humor, but it also provides easy access for the audience, as well. It's impossible not to be interested in this guy, and his experience raises all kinds of relevant "what-ifs" about the prevalence and power of social media.

Any of us might have just as easily found ourselves sucked into this situation; the desire to connect is too great, although the threat of deception online is just as strong. Catfish turns out to be just as suspenseful in the second half as it was hilarious in the first, as Nev and the directors play amateur detective with Google maps and GPS to track down the people they thought they'd come to know well. It would have been helpful to know a little more background about Nev and the other guys, but the film also plays just fine and moves along well at its lean length.

For all its intensity and mystery, though, there's still a welcome note of uplift at the end. And that's a surprise, too.

Catfish, a Rogue Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for some sexual references.

Running time: 86 minutes

Rating: Three and a half stars out of four

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