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‘Catfish’: Infuriating, Brilliant or Both?

Here is an interesting question: can a film infuriate you and be brilliant at the same time.  There are scenes of surprising power in Catfish, only to be followed some of the most infuriating scenes  you are likely to witness this year.  You aren’t infuriated at the character but at the filmmakers.  However, does that even matter?  If it were a fictional film, Catfish would be quite effective.  However once you attach the word documentary to your film, you are now playing by a whole different set of rules.

In order to talk about this film in depth, there will be spoilers.  If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read this review.  However the only way to properly talk about this film is to reveal the ending.  The film starts out as documentary about the friendship between Abby, an 8 year old girl from Michigan, and Nev Schulman, a photographer from New York.  His brother and friend decide to document their friendship which includes Abby painting photos of Nev’s and selling them as works of art.  We also get introduced to her mother Angela, Angela’s husband, and Abby’s older half-sister Megan Faccio.  Megan becomes infatuated with Nev, and they begin a long distance relationship.  However, Nev discovers that Megan might not exist and he drives up to Michigan with his brother, Ariel Schulman, and his brothers friend Henry Joost (they both directed the film) to find out once and for all.

Rogue is marketing this film as a murder mystery/horror film, like it is this year’s Paranormal Activity.  That is very misleading, although not entirely.  There are some very suspenseful sequences in here and they shouldn’t be overlooked.  If you are looking for a great movie going experience, watch this film in a crowded theater.

However once we find out that Megan never existed and Angela has been pulling a fast one on all of them is when the movie goes down hill fast.  Angela not only lies about Megan but she also tells Nev that she was the one who made the paintings.  She tells them that she has cancer but according to the film’s coda, she doesn’t have cancer at all.  The scenes involving Angela’s husband Vince are also really poorly handled.   His whole catfish metaphor feels really scripted, even though it is a powerful monologue.  Also, how would the real Megan Faccio, Aimee Gonzales, feel about the fact that all her pictures are being posted on Facebook and released in a film.  Apparently she is very excited about it.  Why does Megan Faccio have a credit on IMDB?

Ultimately, I can’t recommend or dissuade you from seeing this film.  Is it worth seeing, yes it is.  Is it a film that I loathed, yes it is.