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Catfish (2010)

October 1, 2010

8/10 Virtual Insanities

Makes a swell case for the good old days of meeting people in bars.

Catfish is a documentary about a twenty-something photographer who strikes up an unlikely friendship with an 8-year-old girl after she stumbles upon one of his pictures online, paints a replica of it for him, becomes his friend on Facebook, introduces him to her whole family and hooks him up with her twenty-something sister. All the while, the guy’s brother and friend are there to capture the whole thing as the correspondence continues, emotions heat up and that’s about all I’m gonna tell ya’.

Alright, this may very well be my shortest review yet, but being out of the loop is so much of the draw here. After all, when the only thing the cryptic poster tells you about a movie is “DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT IT IS,” you’d have be a dickhead to start giving stuff away.

In short, it’s a total fluke of a movie, it’s a documentarian’s wet dream, and it’s really well-made considering the limited resources and constant uncertainty surrounding every aspect of what this trio expects to find at the beginning, let alone end, of the rainbow. It plays out like Google Earth: The Movie and it grabs you right away because there shouldn’t be a person in the theater who doesn’t think that some shit is up. Then again, our photogenic protagonist, Nev (pronounced “Kneeve”), doesn’t seem like an idiot in the least, he’s just entirely genuine in every way and whenever he thinks, says or does something in response to the circumstances he’s caught up in, you can’t help but wonder if you wouldn’t act differently in his shoes.

Geez, I know this review couldn’t be any more vague, but Catfish is one hell of sleeper that more than lives up to the word of mouth surrounding it. Like everyone else out there, I had an idea of how this was going to play out before I went in, and while in some aspects I felt like I called it, this movie sure stands a wonderfully refreshing reminder of how life can be so damn unpredictable and flat-out strange. Hopefully that just got the wheels turning for ya’ and hopefully that’ll make you want to see it that much more, ’cause so much of what makes this worth seeing is simply discovering it for yourself and talking about it like crazy after. It’s entirely fascinating on so many levels, far more poignant and raw than I ever expected it to be and it’s incredibly pertinent for a society where you can find anything, do anything and meet anyone you want as long as you’ve got a username and password to work with. Wish I could talk about it more, but I’ll leave that for the Comments section.

Man, 2010 is really shaping up to be a solid year for documentaries.

UPDATE: And thanks a bagillion to the crew at WordPress for posting this to the front page! What a kickass way to start off the weekend. You guys are a-okay in my book.

67 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2010 1:20 am

    The marketing is completely misleading audiences on the ending. It’s not a horror film.

    • October 1, 2010 7:33 am

      It’s funny, I can see how some would think it was, but I never really got that vibe. You do kind of expect the worst based on the trailer though.

      • October 4, 2010 2:32 pm

        The group I was with thought it was going to end up like Paranormal Activity.

      • October 4, 2010 2:35 pm

        hahaha. yeah, that’s not an unreasonable expectation to go in with.

  2. October 1, 2010 11:03 am

    I’ve just barely heard about this one…I will have to seek it out. Don’t know if it’ll be playing anywhere near me though…maybe a renter?

    • October 1, 2010 11:24 am

      Yeah, it’s not one of those movies you have to see in a theater, but it’s definitely a movie worth seeing. And thanks for visiting!

  3. October 1, 2010 11:26 am

    At least one of the film’s trailers refers to it as “the best film Hitchcock never made”. The poster has a big red blood-splattered catfish placed on negative space, along with the tagline “Don’t Let Anyone Tell You What It Is”. They very purposely and very explicitly marketed it as a horror/suspense film. One of the film’s makers was even quoted as saying that they did that on purpose because “Documentaries don’t sell tickets” (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point).

    In short, even the filmmakers knew that not many people would have gone to see their movie without the “Tell Nobody” gimmick. And that’s exactly what it was- a gimmick, with a really mediocre documentary hiding behind it (my opinion, anyway). I’m sorry to come off so caustic but I feel very strongly about the way these people deliberately lied to the movie-going public.

    • October 1, 2010 11:43 am

      haha, no worries, man. what made the documentary for me was actually the tone it ended up taking on during the last 45 minutes or so. loved that it wasn’t malicious, but rather kind of sad and that it let the lady tell her story without really judging her. pretty wild stuff, also glad it didn’t turn out to be a horror movie.

      still, really interesting about the whole “Documentaries don’t sell tickets” quote. I guess since I tried going in as blind as possible, I didn’t really know what to expect, but looking at the poster and tagline again after what you just said, it might as well be FeardotCom 2. A cheap maneuver, I’ll give you that, but it sure does work and I’m glad I saw it.

      And thanks for visiting, man. Choice comment.

  4. October 1, 2010 11:45 am

    I saw the trailer for this while I was at Easy A on Tuesday night and all I have to say is I smell some Blair Witch action. I won’t be fooled again!


    • October 1, 2010 11:48 am

      hahaha. hard to miss the connection from the trailer, but at least this one’s real. still, definitely worth a look. crazy stuff. thanks for visiting!

  5. October 1, 2010 12:11 pm

    I dug it. When I saw the trailer, I thought it was a psuedo-doc style horror flick at first. A little research later, and I already knew too much.

    That being said, there is some talk that the events that unfold in the film are a little too fortuitous, and there is an element of exploitation involved. Still a good flick.

    • October 1, 2010 12:25 pm

      It’s funny, I was getting a little bored with this movie towards the end of the first half-hour, but then it started getting a little too fortuitous once they hit the dance festival in Vail and I was totally on board. And as far as expoloitation (with the woman’s family, I’m guessing?), I felt the same way intially, but it’s also important to get a real picture of her daily life so as to get the bottom of her motivations. But like you said, a good flick. And thanks for visiting!

  6. October 1, 2010 12:29 pm

    Hey congrats on making it on the WP front page, Aiden! When I saw the trailer for the first time last weekend I was like WHOA!! What the heck was that??! I haven’t heard about this until then, but I sure will check this out once it’s out on dvd. Glad you keep this review vague as the less I know going into this the better.

    • October 1, 2010 12:51 pm

      Hahaha. Thanks, Ruth. Crazy times. But, yeah, the trailer definitely does garner that reaction. Really wish I could have gone on about it, but alas, that would be super lame. Hope you dig it a couple months from now!

  7. October 1, 2010 1:48 pm

    Another movie to put on the ‘watch’ list. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  8. October 1, 2010 3:08 pm

    Since I am with I don’t think ill ever be on the front page. Nonetheless, congrats to you! I purposely spoiled this movie for myself because I was tired of being hyped for movies and then being let down. Aside from Sixth Sense, Oldboy and Fight Club I have always been left underwhelmed. I’m glad i read the ending of this flick as it turns out the trailers for this film were a bit misleading. All in all, I will check it out on video most likely.

    P.S. It reminded me of a film entitled ‘Talhotblonde’, you should check that one out if you have time.

    • October 1, 2010 3:13 pm

      Thanks and will do! Never heard of it but will check it out. Freakin’ crazy the kinds of people that lurk the internets, man.

  9. October 1, 2010 3:44 pm

    wow! catfish! thank you for your this post!

  10. October 1, 2010 6:09 pm

    I’m soooo glad you didn’t give it away. I can’t remember being so excited to see a film. And the fact that people are giving it good reviews makes me happy.
    Congrats on making WordPress’s front page, brother.
    Sorry I haven’t commented in a while. I’ve been crazy busy!

    • October 1, 2010 6:21 pm

      haha, thanks and no worries, man. gotta follow up on that MILFcast soon. You recording tomorrow by any chance?

      • October 1, 2010 6:35 pm

        No… it’s my week off… sort of… doing LAMBcast!

  11. October 1, 2010 6:13 pm

    it sounds interesting but in my experience, whenever the advertising misleads it is sure to be a stinker of a movie (they did that w/the one al pacino robin williams movie that came out about 10 years ago)

    • October 1, 2010 6:20 pm

      99% of the time, I’m right there with ya’, but don’t let that sway you. Just see it for what it is, not what you think it’s gonna be.

      And are you talking about Insomnia? Because that movie was effing great. Make that 98%.

      Thanks for visiting, man.

    • October 1, 2010 6:23 pm

      And is your blog name a reference to Once in a Lifetime? If so, you’re the man.

  12. October 1, 2010 6:53 pm

    ahhhhhhh its faux doc? I kNEW it.. . . .the trailer is usually better than the movie.

    • October 1, 2010 7:28 pm

      Not a faux doc actually, seemed awfully legit to me. And I don’t know about that trailer thing. Thanks for visiting though!

  13. October 1, 2010 7:21 pm

    Cast the net and who knows what you’ll drag in. That’s the draw of the Internet. It’s everything and maybe nothing. A little bit dangerous and oh so mild. It’s the terror of the publish button, the thrill of the send button. I will check out this movie.

  14. October 1, 2010 7:24 pm

    saw this yessterday and was so thoroughly disappointed in it. In ndsght, like many state here, the trailer was a mere ploy….a gimmick. and to me, that’s an insult. Definitely will post a video web rant on this one because it bothered me that much. Nothing we haven’t seen on 48 Hours or Dateline — and less dramatic here. But do agree that the take on tthe woman was a tender one and we felt bad for her.

    • October 1, 2010 7:31 pm

      gotta say, pretty surprised by all this outrage over the trailer. might have given a different idea of what the movie actually is, but since i really didn’t know what the movie was gonna be about to begin with, it didn’t really bother me figuring out what it actually was in the long run. idk, feel like i’m in the minority on this one, but looking forward to your take, man.

  15. October 1, 2010 10:39 pm

    i don’t know about it….

  16. October 2, 2010 9:02 am

    I just saw this film a couple nights ago and loved it. Have been meaning to do a review. I was expecting it to be a little more of a thriller but it surprised me nevertheless – and right up until the credits! Did anyone else find it as humorous as I did too? I feel like I was the only one laughing but there were so many awkward moments and bits of hilarious, candid dialogue between Nev and the camera man!

  17. October 2, 2010 2:52 pm

    never heard of this flick, but I’ll definitely give it a shot. Great work on the review!

  18. October 2, 2010 5:52 pm

    Life is coupled in semantix…so misleading…gets us into gullable trouble…I just watched GhettoPhysics and it tells a tale about people using language to push each other into things, just like this Catfish flick…although a completely different formula

    • October 4, 2010 10:26 am

      never heard of that, will check it out though. thanks for visiting!

  19. October 2, 2010 8:57 pm

    Hi, Aiden,

    I’m Lauren.

    I just want to tell you that I like your slightly snarky tone.

    It’s sexy.

    • laureleaves permalink
      November 3, 2010 6:20 am

      Apologies. That was my idiot little sibling. Good posts though! Do enjoy. Keep writing, friend.

      Ta ta.

  20. October 2, 2010 11:18 pm

    As a horror fan, I’m glad I read spoilers on this film. Also, your blog name is choice and congrats for making the front page. That is all.

    • October 4, 2010 10:25 am

      haha. thanks! hope the spoilers didn’t give away too much, but at least you know what to expect now. hope you like it and thanks for visiting!

  21. October 3, 2010 3:55 am

    Nice Post! Reading this reminds me of the so called Blaire Witch Project. Thanks for an interesting post.

    • October 4, 2010 10:24 am

      Yeah, the comparison’s there because it’s being marketed as a pseudo-horror movie for some reason, but it’s actually totally different, which is good. Thanks for visiting!

  22. October 3, 2010 1:06 pm

    It looked interesting from the trailer, but I didn’t think that the acting would be good too. Sounds good, thanks.

    • October 4, 2010 10:20 am

      Well, the acting is just everyone being themselves, so it works out. Def check it out and thanks for visiting!

  23. October 3, 2010 3:54 pm

    I saw this trailer online and heard about the movie from my cousin just a few nights ago, and she insisted I see it. It looks really interesting and definitely a good insight on how easy it is to be fooled online. When I watched the trailer on YouTube, someone in the comments mentioned the fact that the girl was 8 years old and I was crushed because I thought the ending had been ruined for me…is this not the case? Hopefully there is more to the crazy ending than I thought. Either way, I really want to see this and hope I can find it playing nearby!

    • October 4, 2010 10:20 am

      You learn that the girl is 8 within the first 5 minutes, absolutely nothing’s been ruined. So go see it, you’re good. Thanks for visiting!

  24. October 3, 2010 4:22 pm

    The poster looks like it would be horrifying but it’s a documentary.


    • October 4, 2010 10:17 am

      Yeah, pretty misleading, and that seems to be the big complaint with people who didn’t like the final product. But just go in with the mindset that it’s not a horror movie, then you should be all set. And thanks for visiting!

  25. October 3, 2010 4:25 pm

    Great post and congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    I’ve seen only one advert for Catfish – ONE! – and was hooked. That’s a rare thing these days, not being bombarded by the same advert a million times and feeling like there was still something worth spending money to see. The big Hollywood blockbusters seem to unfold the entire plot in a trailer – inserting every single funny line, explosion, and special effect – why would I part with $11.50 when I just got the whole thing for free in 30 seconds? I prefer a little mystery, so thank you to Catfish and to you, dear blogger, for the much needed vagueness. I’ll be checking this one out for sure. 🙂


    • October 4, 2010 10:16 am

      Haha. Right there with ya’. Ever since Inception’s ad campaign, seems like studios are really following suit and making more of a conscious effort to keep it cryptic. It’s about damn time. You see the new trailer for Conviction? Like you said, why bother spending the 11.50 and two hours? Thanks for visiting and hope you dig the movie!

  26. October 4, 2010 7:32 pm

    Had to do it! The manipulative marketing bothered me too much!!! Haha…

    • October 4, 2010 7:36 pm

      Hahaha. Right on, man. If YouTube wasn’t blocked at my office, I’d watch it asap. But I was thinking, I feel like it was all the critics’ quotes in the trailer that threw everyone off, like the stuff about Hitchcock, not so much the content of the footage. I know the film makers must have had a say in what the final trailer was, but shouldn’t we be pointing fingers at the critics, too? Idk, food for thought I guess.

  27. October 5, 2010 1:04 pm

    Well shit – check you out, Mr. Hot Shit! Congrats on the pub, Aiden – you deserve it, though I have to wonder if even you were hoping it was for one of your longer reviews.

    Just saw this Sunday and dug it as well. Wasn’t bothered by the trailer shiznit, and I feel guilty even saying that, since that seems to be about all that anybody’s talking about (then again, it’s not the filmmakers want us to talk about it much more directly…).

    Really dug the Google: Earth – The Movie! vibe it has. I thought that was a fresh, inexpensive way to portray travel in a 2010 film.

    • October 5, 2010 1:27 pm

      hahaha. read my mind, man. was pumped to see it on the front page, but my next thought was “Fuck. That review doesn’t say anything about anything!” but I ain’t complaining.

      glad you liked it, definitely started to feel in the minority on this one. trailer didn’t bother me either, was really surprised by how so many people have taken it. i’d blame the critic who called it “the best hitchock movie hitchock never made” or whatever it was.

      and, yeah, the google earth thing was pretty smart, right? the whole story just fell so “plugged in”, seemed like a very fitting way to transition things.

  28. October 6, 2010 3:32 am

    Nice one, not a total spoiler. Makes one curious of finding out what’s the real story behind that “DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT IT IS”. So it’s not a horror film, a suspense-thriller typo then? I’ll definitely check this movie one of these days.

    Buy FF14 Account

    • October 6, 2010 9:02 am

      Yeah, definitely more along the lines of a suspense-thriller. Really unfortunate that it’s got this horror vibe going along with the ad campaign, but hopefully you’ll still dig it as long as you know what NOT to expect. And thanks for visiting! Feel like hooking me up with a free copy of FF14?

  29. October 9, 2010 12:23 pm

    I must add — they put “Don’t let anyone tell you what it is” on the poster and make sure to market it as a big surprise — but the filmmakers have absolutely NO PROBLEM giving away the entire story (The whole friggin’ thing) for some publicity…they gave it all away on 20/20 last night, they were on Ellen and other shows….so what was the point? As A.O. Scott said in his review in the NY Times, “shame on them.” Gimmick.

  30. December 15, 2010 10:29 pm

    Great film, I loved it! I was apprehensive about watching it as Ive had my own “Megan” and felt my emotions would be too close to the surface as I watched it. Quite the opposite, as my Megan disappeared when I got wind that something was amiss, it was satisfying to see a resolve in the story. My Story remains unfinished and a catfish continues to keep me on my toes…
    Ive written about it below…

    The reference to Amy Kuney was a bit odd as she is in the cast of characters that were woven for me.


  31. Tiffany permalink
    September 7, 2011 6:36 pm

    Cool movie, but creepy! Thanks for the review(:


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