@ the Movies/ Catfish

Slow-moving documentary has the potential to take the road less travelled, but ends up in the ditch instead


WE'VE all been told never to judge a book by its cover, right? But a movie by its trailer? You'd think that one could develop an accurate opinion based almost entirely on those two-minute teaser clips that are essentially the synopsis of its parent film.

Not always.

Case in point, Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman's "documentary" Catfish that presents itself as a suspense thriller that is "not inspired by true events...just true." But its own authenticity as an actual docu-film isn't the issue at hand (though lets put a tac in that). I can't sit here and condone distorted depictions, not when I'm spending something like twenty bucks every time I go to the theatre. And especially not when my anticipation gets the best of me.

You see, it was this film's trailer--and a few choice words by "respectable" critics--that sold me, and my buddy, on what we thought would be an unconventional take on the social media phenomenon, by way of indie footage and an experiment gone awry. Instead, it was an 86-minute waste of time that went exactly where I instinctively imagined.

To further entice unsuspecting movie patrons, the film suggests we see this stretched-out home movie before someone ruins the ending for us. But don't be fooled into believing that Catfish offers some real "emotional roller-coaster ride" around the corner, because it's simply not there.

I'd love to spoil the "surprise" for you right now, but I'm not a total asshole, so I'll only tell you that the midway "twist"--and I use that term loosely--was the first scenario that came to mind when its buildup had approached. It went nowhere out of the ordinary, and certainly nowhere that the trailer had preluded to. Essentially, we were gipped.

In this 2010 Sundance selection, Nev Schulman (pictured left) is a 20-something photographer who lives with his brother Ariel and friend Henry in NYC. After an 8-year-old child prodigy begins sending Nev paintings of his photos that she's been doing at her home in Michigan, they spark up an innocent friendship via Facebook.

That bloats into a family affair, as Nev virtually connects with Abby's mother Angela, her father, and an older half-sister named Megan, who soon intensifies their online relationship by sending him songs she's recorded specifically for him, and suggestive text messages that he reads aloud to the invasive camera.

It's when Nev & co. decide to take a road trip to Michigan to meet "the Facebook family" that the story really starts to unravel, but misleading tones and hints in its trailer will leave you in a lacklustre mood, as you question the finale's arrival: "This can't be it!"

Whether or not this was even a legitimate documentary, or simply disguised as one, is up for debate, despite its filmmakers' claims that it's all real. With the exception of sporadic interludes of realism, Catfish always tip-toed in the territory of a Blair Witch Project-ish piece. Who knows? Who cares?

My buddy and I left the Princess Theatre, disgruntled, disappointed, dissatisfied with what seemingly promised to be a "clever" examination of how deceiving our daily connections can be. Ironically, the producers of Catfish are just as guilty in deceiving us.

1 outta 5 stars

Below is the official trailer for 'Catfish.'

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