"Catfish:" a sad but intriguing documentary
"Catfish" is one of the most provocative but somber documentaries seen in recent memory. It's about a real-life relationship that starts on Facebook, slowly develops into a deeper relationship, then the painful realization that people aren't who they say they are. "Catfish" is an entertaining, thought-provoking film with the somber reminder of how relationships develop in the internet age.
Young New York photographer Nev Schulman lives with brother Ariel and friend Henry Joost in New York. Abby Pierce, an eight-year-old child prodigy artist in rural Michigan, sends him a painting of one of his photographs. They become Facebook friends in a network that broadens to Abby's family, including her mother, Angela; Angela's husband; and Abby's attractive older half-sister Megan, a songwriter.
Ariel and Henry documents Nev's long-distance relationship with Megan, conducted over the Internet and phone calls, and they discuss meeting in person. They realize the music that Megan has been sending them has been downloaded from You Tube along with some other troubling, false claims. The filmmakers travel to Michigan to confront Megan and discover she is Angela, a housewife and artist who has created an elaborate hoax.
"Catish" is an engrossing but painfully sad documentary that comes as a reminder of how careful we should be in the internet age. It turns out better than some relationships of this type do, and could've been far more dangerous. The documentary tracks some of the creepy elements that don't add up, and you may think initially that it's a horror film, but what is terrifying is how pitiful Angela, a real-life housewife and artist, really is; she doesn't have much of a life and cares for her children, including two disabled stepsons.
The title comes from a quote from Angela's husband who is speaking about fish and how things are added to our lives to make them more interesting. It's remarkable that he is supportive of Angela in her hoax, because she wants to be happy. Even more intriguing is the fact that Angela herself is the artist, and a gifted one at that. The filmmakers approach Angela with one of heartbreak rather than humiliation, and it seems that all of it is turning out very well for her even after she's exposed as a fraud.
"Catfish" isn't for everyone. This is a documentary that takes time to develop and you must give it time to let it sink in and realize what's happened. It also doesn't fully realize it's own messages: the dangers of internet relationships aren't nearly explored enough, and I would hope that people realize that relationships don't always turn out as well as it does here. Still, even with it's flaws, the themes are timely, thought-provoking and provocative.