Monday, September 27, 2010

Catfish - B+

In theaters. Rated PG-13, 94 minutes. Trailer.

An amateurish documentary about a long distance relationship on Facebook, Catfish may be a one-trick pony, but its a trick worth seeing. The film follows Nev, a 24 year old photographer in Manhattan, and his relationship with an 8 year old girl that paints things and meets him on Facebook. The documentarians are Nev's roommate and brother and they convince him to let them follow him as the relationships begin developing. The film is funny, suspenseful, sad, and challenging. Part of the interest and experience of the film is not knowing more than what is shown in the trailer before you see it, so, don't click to read the rest of this review until you've seen it (click below for more on Catfish, including SPOILERS):

Again, don't read on unless you want the movie's secrets to be revealed. Nev's relationship with Abby leads to a substantial relationship with her very attractive sister Megan. They text, email, facebook and she even sings him songs. After several months and a suspicious occurrence, the boys decide to drive to Michigan to meet Megan. When they arrive they see that Megan is an elaborate construct of Abby's mom, Angela. Angela is the painter in the family, not Abby, and Angela quickly comes up with a flimsy explanation for why Megan is gone. But, as the guys stay and talk with her, she slowly opens up and admits almost all of the secret.

That a savvy New Yorker like Nev could fall for something like this is interesting. The impact on him appears to be negligible, but the viewer is reminded of the viper pit that the internet is. Those elements are enough to push the film to a B, but for me the real nut of the film is Angela. She is a semi-talented, decently intelligent person stuck in hell on earth. She is a stay at home caregiver to 2 profoundly retarded adult men that are her stepchildren. The "boys" cannot feed, bathe or handle bathroom duty (they wear diapers) and they self-harm. Her husband isn't retarded, but he's close......and she's stuck. The scene where she breaks down to Nev about not realizing the cost of the marriage and caregiving and resigning from her life is heartbreaking and universal. I felt pity for Angela and even though her fake network isn't excusable, it is understandable.

I believe that nearly everyone on Facebook or on their blog does some of what Angela does to some degree. Everyone posts a good picture of themselves, and some people glamorize their life almost as a commercial even though it is extremely mundane. The film artfully renders an analysis of this facet of the digital age.

Worth your time.

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