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71 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not A Shocking Thriller----"Catfish" Suffers From An Overzealous and Expectation Setting Ad Campaign
As many others, I distinctly recall the marketing campaign for "Catfish" that spoke of this quasi-documentary in thriller-like terminology. I was actually surprised by how wide this movie dropped in its initial theatrical release--most current documentaries don't get a full scale media blitz but instead are relegated to the art house circuit. In many ways, I can already...
Published on January 5, 2011 by K. Harris

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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So where does the truth end and the film begin?
In 2007, a photographer in New York City, Nev Schulman, was surprised to receive a parcel in the post containing a painting. It was a painting of a picture of his that had been published in The New York Sun some weeks earlier, and the artist was apparently only eight years old. Intrigued, Schulman began corresponding with Abby, the artist, online under her mother Angela's...
Published on May 7, 2011 by A. Whitehead


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71 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not A Shocking Thriller----"Catfish" Suffers From An Overzealous and Expectation Setting Ad Campaign, January 5, 2011
This review is from: Catfish (DVD)
As many others, I distinctly recall the marketing campaign for "Catfish" that spoke of this quasi-documentary in thriller-like terminology. I was actually surprised by how wide this movie dropped in its initial theatrical release--most current documentaries don't get a full scale media blitz but instead are relegated to the art house circuit. In many ways, I can already see the negative backlash that this approach has caused by setting up expectations that the actual film had little intentions of fulfilling. It's disappointing, really, in reaching for a broader appeal--perhaps "Catfish" was a bit oversold for mass consumption. "Catfish" is actually a very compelling and entertaining character driven piece and I think that the people who approach it with no pre-conceived notions might find this film has a lot to offer about our media obsession. Where David Fincher's "The Social Network" was the great fictional Facebook movie of 2010, I think "Catfish" stands as an interesting counterpoint in the non-fiction category.

In truth, the less you know about "Catfish"--the better. And perhaps that is the reason behind the mysterious trailer that may have been a tad misleading. The story is extremely contemporary. Anyone who has experienced online networking and dating know the inherent perils in believing everything you read. It's simply not prudent. "Catfish" documents a relationship between a successful New York photographer and 8 year old Abby, an artist in Michigan. Abby sends him a painting of one of his published photos and the two strike up an electronic friendship. His brother and friend start to document this blossoming camaraderie and this forms the initial basis for "Catfish." Soon, he becomes acquainted with Abby's entire family and even starts a long distance courtship with her older sister Megan. But as things become more intimate, everything might not be entirely copasetic. The film culminates with the boys traveling to Michigan to meet the family that he has been corresponding with for over eight months.

Let me just say this--nothing that they discover is particularly surprising. Modern audiences are certainly astute enough to sort out the central mysteries. What is surprising, however, is the intricacies involved in these mysteries. The film begins as a lark--funny and romantic. It evolves into a darker picture altogether until the end is infused with a sadness and melancholy which was quite unexpected. I, of course, can only speak for myself. I don't think "Catfish" is for everyone and I understand the frustration of viewers who felt the advertising was a bit of a bait and switch. But, in truth, I absolutely loved this movie. Seriously.

There is also an ongoing debate about the veracity of the film--how much was staged and how much unfolded naturally. I will admit that the casual filming style and equipment wouldn't always have lent itself to the full picture and all access pass that the film provides. But there is a real underlying integrity to what is being revealed. "Catfish" struck me as an honest examination about the truths that we need to tell ourselves to get by. I was thoroughly entertained throughout. "Catfish" made me laugh, made me uncomfortable, and made me sad. And just when I made my peace with the characters of "Catfish," the end credit epilogue slapped me back to reality one more time. I am certainly surprised by the depth of passion I have in defending this film from its nay-sayers, but it is a film that will linger in my mind for quite some time. KGHarris, 1/11.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So where does the truth end and the film begin?, May 7, 2011
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Catfish (DVD)
In 2007, a photographer in New York City, Nev Schulman, was surprised to receive a parcel in the post containing a painting. It was a painting of a picture of his that had been published in The New York Sun some weeks earlier, and the artist was apparently only eight years old. Intrigued, Schulman began corresponding with Abby, the artist, online under her mother Angela's supervision. His brother Ariel and friend Henry, amateur film-makers, smell a potential good story here and begin filming Nev's interactions with Abby's family by phone and computer. Nev also comes into contact with Abby's family members via Facebook, particularly her 19-year-old sister Megan, whom he starts 'Internet dating'. Since the family live many hundreds of miles away in Michigan, the chances of meeting them soon do not appear to be likely.

Whilst working on a project in Colorado, the trio start to find holes in the story presented to them. Megan, who sings and plays guitar and piano, sends Nev some songs she's recorded, but he finds that they are recordings of songs from YouTube. Googling reveals no mention of Abby's artistic skills in local media. Nev becomes concerned over being scammed, and they decide to detour to Michigan on the way home to learn the truth.

Catfish is an interesting film that was released last year after proving a storm at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It then triggered a significant wave of controversy, though we'll come to that in a moment. It's easy to see why the film has been praised: it's a zeitgeist-capturing movie about people who forge relationships online where the details presented by the parties involved may be exaggerated or indeed fabricated altogether. The final act, exposing what's really going on, subverts audience expectations about the motivations of those involved. As a piece of film-making, Catfish is entertaining, intriguing and builds tension towards the moment of revelation (though it has to be said that this is a quiet, non-flashy film; the trailer suggesting it's a 'thriller' is totally inaccurate).

The film also asks an important question of the audience, one that may or may not have been intended by the film-makers. The film is about people passing themselves and a situation off as something that is rather different to what is presented. So, it is perfectly logical for the viewer to ask, "Okay, but what about you guys? Is this really what happened? Are you manipulating us?" If the film-makers had done this deliberately and perhaps avoided answering the question in promotion, it would be a fascinating and metatextual statement on presentation, perception and motivation in a world where it's all too easy to manipulate these things online for an intended purpose or effect. Unfortunately, the film-makers have spent a fair amount of time saying that everything in the film is 100% the truth and nothing has been changed or manipulated.

This claim is immediately challenged by a scene in which Nev and his compatriots arrive at the address supplied by Megan, intending to surprise her, only to find the house abandoned and uninhabited. Nev opens the postbox (rather dubiously; interfering with the mail in the USA is a federal offence) and finds it stuffed full of the letters and packages he's sent to Megan during the course of their 'relationship'. However, this is clearly a fabricated scene: the post has 'return to sender' already stamped on it, indicating that the post was delivered, not picked up and sent back to Nev in New York. He then appears to have taken the post back to the address and set the scene up to demonstrate to the viewer the deception of Megan providing a false address.

This in turn leads to the viewer questioning the truthfulness of the entire enterprise. Many tens of thousands of words have been dedicated to questioning every aspect of the film by multiple articles, blogs and even news items on US television, so I'll avoid into delving too far into that, except to note that there seems to have been some very clever manipulation of scenes and chronology going on to present the narrative as it unfolds to us.

The film, taken at face-value, is intriguing and raises interesting questions about Internet-based relationships. However, the fact that aspects of it are clearly manipulated and possibly exploitative (one of the participants has since passed away, something that has indeed been verified, but which makes the situation even murkier) leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But at the same time, the fact that after watching the film the viewer can then go online and read up on all the controversy and draw their own conclusions itself adds another level to the experience: layers of deceit, spin, presentation and impersonation. Talking about the film and seeing how different people interpret it is arguably more interesting than the movie itself.

Catfish (score not really applicable) is a bizarre and thought-provoking film about modern media, manipulation and social networking. Whether you believe all of it, none of it or something between, it definitely raises some very interesting questions. The film is available now on DVD (UK, USA) and Blu-Ray (UK, USA).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable, January 29, 2012
By 
This review is from: Catfish [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Having lived near Ishpeming Michigan for many years before moving out east, I knew immediately that something was awry with the photos of the characters. But this movie is so full of interesting and sensitive twists and turns that it is absolutely gripping. I don't for a minute think this was faked ala Blair Witch. It is just too true to be comfortable for most people. Bravo to the filmmakers for following it to the difficult end.
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39 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the Girl You Love Isn't Who She Says She Is, September 24, 2010
By 
This review is from: Catfish (DVD)
That the authenticity of "Catfish" is in question is both the film's greatest strength and its biggest weakness. Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost have repeatedly claimed that their documentary isn't a hoax, and while I'd like to believe them, I admit that I have my doubts; some of it comes off as a little too dramatic, almost as if the situation were intentionally manufactured for the sake of telling a cautionary tale of internet romance. That being said, the definition and purpose of a true documentary is open for debate. Some believe it should objectively present life as it is, the camera meant to provoke or surprise an unassuming subject, the audience meant to participate as a fly on the wall. Others believe it should express an opinion and support its position with facts and figures. "Catfish" seems to do a little bit of both, confusing matters even further.

Still, there's no denying that it's a gripping piece of work - mysterious, at times suspenseful, at times amusing, and in the end, a curiously touching examination of human behavior and the power of art. If the film is real, if the people on camera are not actors but actual documentary subjects, then it may someday be regarded as one of the best examples of early twenty-first century Cinéma vérité.

The film follows New York photographer Nev Schulman, Ariel's brother, who in 2008 received a painting of one of his photos from eight-year-old Michigan native Abby Pierce. Flattered by her interest in his work, he adds her as a friend on Facebook. This quickly expands to include most of her family, including her mother, Angela, and her older half-sister, Megan, the latter two he begins corresponding with over the phone. He has an especially good rapport with Megan, who's incredibly attractive and has dozens of pictures on her Facebook account. She's an artist herself - a singer and a songwriter. She has also just purchased a farm and is raising horses. Nev is smitten, and in due time, the two start a long-distance relationship. They text each other constantly, progressing naturally from chaste flirtation to bold innuendo. She eventually posts a few of her songs on Facebook for him to listen to, and he tells her they're all very good.

But then Nev discovers that all of the same songs appear on YouTube. One sounds exactly the same as Megan's version. She tells him that she was merely covering the songs, but it's obvious she isn't telling the truth. And what about Abby's paintings? Angela tells him that they're being sold all over the state for various amounts. She also tells him that Abby has just acquired access to a vacant building, which will be converted to a gallery to display her work. A few phone calls make it clear that this is simply not the case. Why are they lying to Nev? How could he have been so gullible? After documenting a dance festival in Colorado, Nev, Ariel, and Henry decide to travel to Michigan and confront Megan and Angela.

And this is where I will stop describing the sequence of events. I will say that it leads to an unexpectedly emotional conclusion. The goal isn't necessarily to shock, although certain audiences may respond to it in that manner; the real goal is to awaken within the audience a sense of empathy, to show us why certain people are the way they are, even if we may not understand. And here again I question the film's authenticity. Isn't it a little too convenient that such a message should be sent at a time when millions upon millions of people - myself included - are frequent Facebook users? I can't quite put my finger on it, but I feel that something subversive is at work here. It's almost as if the filmmakers wanted everything to go the way it actually does go. No, I don't have any proof of this. It's just my gut reaction.

That doesn't change the fact that I was actively engaged with the material. Even the title got me hooked (no pun intended). The tagline warns, "Don't let anyone tell you what it is," and while this may seem pretty stern, it also ignites a fascinating air of anticipation. What exactly does the title refer to? An interview near the end of the film puts it into perspective, and it affected me in two distinct ways: (1) It allowed me to see where certain people were coming from, even though I wholeheartedly disagreed with the methods employed; (2) it stirred within me such feelings of pity that I was tempted to overlook a certain someone's serious lack of judgment. I was tempted, but I ultimately didn't cave in. If that makes me a bad guy, keep in mind that the lies were perpetuated even after Nev and his team arrived in Michigan. If you can't come clean even after the person you lied to has you in a corner, I tend to doubt there will ever be a point at which enough is enough.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Something Smells Fishy..., February 14, 2011
By 
This review is from: Catfish (DVD)
When this film arrived on my doorstep, I dropped everything I was doing and popped it into the player. I had read all of the hype about the releasing of this "Facebook documentary" at the same time as the "Facebook movie". I was drawn in by the hushed way that people spoke about the documentary and the fact that no one was willing to give a full plot detail. It is for this reason that I watched the movie hungrily waiting to be blow away. I was disappointed...greatly!

This film follows a young artist who becomes interested in the artwork of an 8 year old girl, Abby, who lives in Michigan. As he becomes more and more entranced with her work, he starts a relationship with the rest of Abby's family. Eventually, he begins to date Abby's half-sister Meghan though they have never met and their only interactions have been through Facebook or on the phone. When he gets a chance to travel to the west coast, he decides to drop in on the family. As the date of the trip approaches, he begins to think that maybe he has been duped. He starts wondering if there even is an Abby and if Meghan actually exists. This revelation leads him to the family's doorstep where he is faced with the truth.

All of the hype surrounding this film made me think that there would be an intriguing twist that changes the viewer's preconceptions. However, I found no such revelation. Instead, I found the film to be another cautionary tale about Facebook and online dating. There was nothing new here that hasn't been covered on the Evening News or been the subject of a Lifetime movie. Additionally, there has been an outcry that the film is a hoax. I don't know if there is any truth in this statement; what I know IS true is that this film had a terrific ad campaign for a far from terrific movie.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Clever, but rings untrue, January 18, 2012
By 
Matthew "RougeRoman" (LA CRESCENT, MN, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Catfish (DVD)
The prmise of this "documentery" is falsehoods and deception in the modern social networking age. The film makers are supposedly dupped into believing in a young painter and her family over facebook. One actually begins an on-line relationship with the older sister of the young painter.
The premise is believable and events may have even stared as the filmakers document.
I cannot, however, believe the filmakers were that naive throughout the beginning of the film. Later, once they know they are being decieved, they conject on the nature of the deception. These turn out to be spot on. The actual discovery of the deception seems to be somewhat stagged or acted out. Maybe I am being jadded.
I'm writing this review being purposfully vague so you might watch the film and draw your own conclusions.
Bottom line is that I feel the film makers manipulated and edited the film to make it seem as dramatic and spontanious as possible(that's the filmskers job some would say...not in a documentary about deception says I). Something about the whole film does just not ring true with me. If you have some time to kill watch it and judge for yourself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars what can happen when you want to believe what you want to believe, October 14, 2012
By 
Matthew G. Sherwin (last seen screaming at Amazon customer service) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Catfish (DVD)
Catfish is a captivating film although I have some doubts that every last thing presented by the filmmakers is true. The story moves along at a very good pace; and the cinematography, while somewhat amateurish, works well enough to enhance the film. There's a fine musical score and enough time for us to get to know the people involved in the story which highlights online relationships with all the inherent benefits and risks.

At the start, we meet a young successful New York City photographer Nev Schulman who works with his brother Ariel and their buddy Henry. When Nev gets a painting of one of his photos sent to him by an eight year old in Michigan named Abby; Nev is flattered and starts an online friendship with Abby under her mother Angela's supervision. Ariel and Henry document the budding friendship between Abby and Nev by filming it; and it isn't long before Nev befriends Abby's entire family and starts "internet dating" and flirting using text messaging, phone conversations and online chat sessions with Abby's older half-sister Megan. Nev befriends other people on the Internet who also know Abby's family.

But things become much more complicated. While on a trip to Colorado, Nev gets some music from Megan--but they turn out to be songs posted on a website by another artist! They also can't find any evidence on the Internet that Abby is an artist. Nev feels confused, scammed or taken advantage of but to some degree the young man really doesn't know what to think. Nev, Ariel and Henry decide to get to the bottom of things: They fly to Chicago, rent a car and drive to Megan's farm and the town where Abby and her family live to find out once and for all what's going on.

What Nev, Ariel and Henry discover is shown in the rest of the film. I agree with anyone that the trailer for Catfish is misleading; it's not a thriller despite their best efforts to use music that sounds "eerie" and their encouraging each other to check out Abby's family when each of them gets almost too nervous and scared to discover what might really be happening. Nevertheless, what they discover is quite dramatic.

There has been considerable controversy over just how much of the story is true. One thing is clear: the scene in which they discover Nev's mail to Megan at a farm where Megan told them she lives was almost certainly fabricated. The camera shows that postcards from Nev to Megan were already stamped "return to sender" so they couldn't have been sitting in that mailbox; that mail must have been returned to the sender (Nev in New York)--and then brought back to the Michigan address by Nev, Ariel and Henry so the scene would look realistic. Whoops! Looks like there's at least one hole in the story; that leaves me wondering how much of the rest is true.

The DVD comes with an interview with filmmakers Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman as well as Nev Schulman.

Catfish is interesting not necessarily for honesty but more so for highlighting how people can use social media websites to portray themselves or others as they wish--and what can happen in "real life" as a result. I recommend this film for fans of documentaries and people who are interested in the effect of social media on human relationships.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Documentary NOT Thriller, June 29, 2011
This review is from: Catfish (DVD)
This movie was blatantly falsely advertised as a thriller, but it is a documentary about cyber relationships, more specifically about how our desire for intimacy manifests itself in this age of social networks.

Even though it's a documentary, it still has a tinge of implausibility to it. The story opens with Niev's unlikely correspondence with a bright, child artist. The girl, a fan of Niev's photography, sends him painted renditions of his work. He first befriends Abby's mom Angela, then her entire family including her father, brother, and half-sister Megan with whom he has a romantic connection.

I knew what happened before I watched the movie, so perhaps that knowledge biased my viewing, or maybe I'm just excessively cynical, but I found it a bit narcissistic that Niev never found the situation suspicious. Why would her entire family take such an active interest in him? The "facebook family" a he dubs them, are all so pitch-perfect, talented and just plain neat, it comes off as contrived and disingenuous. Despite being perpetually drunk on attention, Niev, in a rare moment of reflection and common sense, decides to fact check some of Angela's incredible stories.

He, his brother and friend drive hundreds of miles to confront Angela and discover the truth about her and her family. Interestingly enough, this narrative shift also strips away whatever sympathy the viewer may have felt toward the protagonist. He morphs from the victim to the aggressor, with no concept of how his decision may impact this stranger.

However uncomfortable the situations and affected the characters, there is a sincere and bittersweet resolution that makes the film worthwhile and engaging. In this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Despite its flaws, this movie is relevant, and unique.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real or Fake: If scripted, Angela Wesselman deserves an Academy Award, April 8, 2011
This review is from: Catfish (DVD)
The first half of this movie had me thinking how phony it was. The lead actor was not convincing. His dialog, his expressions were unrealistic and contrived.

Then he meets his internet friend in the flesh. Again, I dont believe some of the film footage here either but the actress who plays the Internet friend is spot on perfect. Her line readings and her expressions are absolutely spot on perfect. As I say in the title, if she is reading script, she deserves the Oscar for the best acting of the year and as good acting as I have ever seen in any movie ever.

I am with the filmmakers all the way from this point on. Whoa, she's not like her facebook page but as we get to know her and see her in some of the close-up shots, she is actually beautiful.

Then the bonus self-interview with the lead actor and his film-making friends. If they are acting here, it is light years better than in the movie itself. Which speaks to the film's authenticity... which I am not saying what that is... see no spoilers : = )
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Questions of identity similar to those found in science fiction, January 21, 2013
By 
Ulfilas (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Catfish (DVD)
I watched this with my college student daughter, who was familiar with this movie from its associated TV show. For me, a person in his early 60's, this movie was somewhat curious. It was never clear to me how seriously the narrator Nev considered his relationship with the web-based identity he was following. Nevertheless, he pursued the objective of seeking out this person with admirable relentlessness and compassion.

In a way, this story reminds me of a science fiction movie or Star Trek episode, in which a human being discovers that the visitor from another planet (of the apparent opposite sex) to which this human being is attracted, is not even vaguely human. Indeed, the besmitten human inevitably discovers that the beloved has donned a technologically sophisticated disguise. In fact, this is such a common science fiction romantic plot that it is even a part of the amusing Star Trek parody Galaxy Quest.
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Catfish
Catfish by Ariel Schulman Henry Joost (DVD - 2011)
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