After finishing Catfish, I told Kelly that the film couldn’t be real. It was too slick, too easy, perhaps even over-edited. “You persuade,” the Austrian Emperor tells Mozart in Amadeus, “but you do not convince.” The more I thought about it though, the more my mind changed.
As Johnny would say, “as Dennis Hopper would say, ‘just because it happened to you doesn’t make it interesting'” and with that, I realized that this thing was pretty real. The tagline says it all: don’t let anyone tell you what it is, because there’s nothing more beyond it. To give away the spoiler of the film is to give away the entire film, so I won’t (because I’m nice) but it’s obvious that these guys had an opportunity to document a pretty unique scenario and took it. The movie starts off as NYC-based photographer Nev gets to know eight-year-old Abby – who’s been turning his photographs into wonderful paintings – over Facebook. Nev’s brother and other roommate start filming their interactions and he starts accepting package after package of her paintings. He’s then introduced to her family (at a distance, via Facebook and phone calls) and begins to have a long-distance relationship with Abby’s adult sister, Megan. As the trailer reveals, they eventually go hundreds of miles out of their way to visit them… and that’s really all I can say.
The reality of Catfish is that it is probably the perfect rental, but the film hinges entirely on its spoiling point, and at 86 minutes, the narrative feels stretched. Even after you learned that Bruce Willis was dead, The Sixth Sense was still a flick you could return to. Catfish? Not so much. You start to figure it out halfway through (or earlier), but the film delays the punch as long as possible. It’s not even that this documentary is poorly produced, because it isn’t. If they had a better realized, less hook-y subject to base their efforts on, they could’ve accomplished a lot more.
At its best, Catfish is a curiosity. There’s simply nothing that lingers afterward, leaving you to wonder what the fuss was about in the first place.