I probably wouldn’t have made an effort to track down a place to go and see Catfish had I not been pulled in by the hype. The tag line itself does nothing but add to the gimmick: “Don’t let anyone tell you what it is.”
On seeing the movie, I can only assume that this is because if you knew the story before going, you really wouldn’t bother.
Catfish is not a bad movie. The plot is pretty interesting and there are very few of it’s mere 87 minutes in which anyone would have time to be bored. But for me, the over-the-top attempts to make the movie look like a documentary and the complete single-minded attitude on the part of the makers to attempt to be ambiguous as to whether it is scripted or not overtake the plot less than 20 minutes in, and you are left to endure the gimmick when you would much rather be enjoying the story.
The surprising thing to me is that there has been a huge amount of discussion about Catfish being “fake“. For me, there was no question from the beginning that I was watching a movie in the style of a documentary. To say that it is difficult to distinguish between the actors performances within this movie and reality would be a huge overestimation of their acting talent … Yaniv Shulman, the main character is a decent actor, but I find it impossible to believe that people couldn’t tell he was acting through a large portion of this movie. The same goes for the other two guys in their movie-making trio.
Then we come to the plot. It is definitely well considered and thought out. They have done their best to maintain the illusion of reality, keeping the path of the storyline linear and straightforward. Unfortunately, that lack of any real confusion for the main characters is the very thing that breaks the illusion. Not to mention that there are plot holes an elephant could fall down within it.
The main character, Nev, meets an 8 year old artist prodigy on Facebook. She begins painting incredibly good pictures of photographs that he sends her. Her paintings become so well known in her home town that she is able to buy a building, renovate it into a gallery and display her work. All this takes place within a few months of their first virtual meeting. So, HIS photographs, painted by a child prodigy are on show in an art gallery.
The first plot hole gapes: At this point, he has not even so much as Googled her name to see pictures of her gallery! He’s not travelled the relatively small distance to visit the exhibition of , essentially HIS photographs! Not to mention that he doesn’t even attempt to use his influence in the industry to get some recognition for what seems to be an incredibly talented girl! He doesn’t even Google this girl to try and read the many online news stories that would spring up in this situation. He only decides to search eight months into their correspondance – handily, once the cameras were rolling and we could catch his reactions to discovering the lies … his reaction mainly being to grin a lot!
Second, the guy gets into a long-distance relationship with the girl’s sister. They talk on the phone, they exchange messages. They essentially believe that they have fallen in love. However, this is set in 2008. One word. Skype. Over the months when they’re whinging about not being together and missing each other, even though they’ve never met, why would they not download a FREE application, get a $10 webcam and start videochatting? Oh yeah, cos he would have found out she was lying instantly and it would have killed the movie completely! Moreover, why could he not just fly out to see her? There’s clearly no shortage of money in their lives and a return flight from New York to Michigan wouldn’t exactly break the bank, would it?
A whole bunch of plot points of this kind made the movie something of an irritation to watch for me. Not because I expect all movies to have perfect plots, but because they were trying to pull off this “reality” gimmick and, right through to the very end, remained totally smug in their delusion that they had succeeded.
95% into the movie, we still have no idea why it’s even called Catfish – and it’s such a strange title for a movie that you really have explain it, otherwise what’s the point? May as well call it something actually pertinent to the plot.
However, during the closing scenes of Catfish, we are indeed presented with an explanation from the woman’s husband. Now, this guy comes across as a bit clueless and rather … well, slow. Yet, he comes out with this supposedly profound metaphor, calling his wife a “catfish” in the sense that when fishmongers ship cod, they add a catfish to the container to keep them agitated, busy and alive …
This woman has fabricated a whole nest of lies, opening more than 10 fake Facebook accounts and posting on all of them as different people to string the main character along. Defrauding him at every turn, pretending paintings that she’s doing of his photographs are actually done by her 8 year old daughter!
Pretending to be her own other teenage daughter and sending him dirty texts and practically having phone sex with him! And we are expected to accept her as this “catfish“? Her actions justified in the name of keeping his life interesting?!
I think I’d rather be bored!
Yet, in another example of the unrealistic reactions exhibited by Nev, he takes all of this in, remaining completely calm and even keeping that dumb grin on his face right to the end.
As a simple movie about lies, deception and the strange need some people feel to be wanted and connected to others over the internet, Catfish would have stood up pretty well. But the full-on devotion to their flawed gimmick gets in the way on too many occasions not to be utterly distracting and the over exaggerated, unnecessary hype surrounding it ultimately left we waiting for a twist that never came.
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