Catfish Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman Cast: Nev Schulman Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: September 24, 2010
PLOT: A NYC photographer (Schulman) and his two filmmaker friends (Schulman and Joost) venture to Michigan to meet a family they've only come to know through the internet.
WHO'S IT FOR? The Youtube generation that realizes the internet’s creepy accessibility to so many parts of lives can also provide a unique introspective into a person’s soul. This is not for the YT-ers that enjoy watching people get hurt on camera.
EXPECTATIONS: As I had been informed by the hype for the movie, I "didn't let anyone tell me what Catfish is." Instead, I ventured into the film with curiosity as opposed to expectation.
TALKING: Hipster-chic host Nev Schulman is our tour guide through the wild events of Catfish, as he's always on camera. Much of the film involves him being interviewed, something that keeps us very up to date with the peculiar events. He’s an affable presence, even when he doesn't seem to want to be on camera. Score: 7
SIGHTS: A huge part of Catfish's charm comes from its full usage of common internet foundations like Facebook and Google. Whole off-screen characters are given great color with the presentation of their Facebooks, what their house looks like on GoogleMaps, etc. At the same time, these simple sources of information also provide the mystery that keeps Catfish so compelling, and also quite possible. Score: 8
SOUNDS: Mark Mothersbaugh (Rushmore) contributes a handful of cheery simple instrumentals to counter the dark tone that Catfish seems to be going towards. In keeping with the film’s documentary style, the temporal ratings of the volume can be a bit rough. Your ears may hurt in a few occasions, but it's for the sake of realism. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: The "sexting" sequence demonstrates how communication through technology has no limits, and also how goofy the idea of "sexting" really is. This moment is also the film's funniest sequence.
ENDING: I could hype this up to be really big, but having big expectations for this movie is dangerous. If anything, Catfish is not what you expect. This is certainly the case if you’re expecting Catfish to be concealing something truly menacing.
QUESTIONS: This concept would have made for a great script. Has no one thought to use Googlemaps, Facebook, Youtube, and handheld cameras for a low-budget thriller before?
REWATCHABILITY: Once the "twist" is revealed, there is not much that can be taken away from Catfish, other than a lesson. Instead of sharing this experience with a friend, I'd much rather have a conversation with them about this film.
Catfish is a movie with a solid timely concept that plays into our own paranoia about the technologies that we’ve let run our lives (like Facebook and Google). The movie both uses those sites for a plethora of information, but simultaneously pits them against themselves and posits that they are creepy and invasive. Hypocritical or not, the conclusion of the movie helps the film achieve this poignancy, especially when we are forced to consider just what limits Facebook and Google have when it comes to access and usability. If there are any limits, that is.
… But will it work? No. Catfish is commendable for its contemplation of issues bigger than just internet privacy, but that doesn’t change the fact that the story is more about a twist over anything else. Especially with the way in which this film is being marketed, the film will not payoff with what all appealed audiences are looking for, nor will they be satisfied on a different level. After all, hype does not equal audience numbers. Some viewers might be briefly reminded to put their Facebook settings onto "Private," or consider just how much information to share on websites in general. But the story could easily lend itself towards being a massive "Failblog.com" post. Catfish can be chewed up by a curious mainstream audience at first, but it can just as easily be spit out.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10