Saturday, 1 January 2011

Catfish

What happens when you add someone you don't know as a 'friend'? A world where internet dating is the norm? Where faceless social networking can allow anything to happen? Well you probably get a bunch of guys with hard-on's pissing about, a bit like this ...


Before I begin, I heard about this film months and months ago when it was making a ripple in the festival circuit - that isn't bragging, it's because unfortunately researching the film, I uncovered the ending by accident. Which means that I already knew what was going to happen coming into the film, which probably ruins it from the start.

I also heard a lot of stuff about it being fake, that the guys knew way before they 'find out' but Metro kept going on about how amazing it is and a few friends have said it's incredible. Unfortunately, I'd disagree and I actually think it was quite horrible to watch, for reasons that might not be apparent.

In case you don't already know, Nev is starting to flirt with a girl on Facebook called Meghan and his brother is filming it as it goes along. It starts off quite strange anyway, Nev has been sent a painting of his photo by Abi, an eight year old girl, he starts chatting to her and they become pen pals. I found this a bit strange in the first place, a 24 year old man shouldn't have an 8 year old female pen pal but, whatever, I'll let it slide. Soon he starts talking to the mother, who looks hot and he fancies her too, but then the 19 year sister of Abi called Meghan pops into the picture. He starts texting her and flirting as well. It's all quite disgusting really but portrayed in a sweet fashion. The art Abi paints is also shit, the phone calls feel awkward and it's not until the music comes into play that they start realising something is wrong.

The problem is, I can see why people think it's fake. For the rest of the film, Nev has a knowing smile on his face and in the last half hour or so, as awkward as it is, they are clearly revelling in the boyish nature of knowing they've found a story. Nev isn't gutted, he's not embarrassed, he's enjoying the results and as sad as it is, it's exploiting this sadness. It's looking down on someone, almost mocking them by even releasing the film and yet patronises the audience by trying to make it sympathetic and sweet. Nev is your everyday middle-class male, he has his Macbook, he photographs dancers, he's mixed race in a central city, he's good looking and he's pretty much like every person who goes to a film festival. This will probably upset people but it's true. When they enter the suburbs, a farm, when they see the kind of people, the lives they lead, it has no real effect on them, they can up and leave it and look back and laugh, but the others can't. The way it is dealt with in the trailer is as a horror, the city folks fear of suburbia (see Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deliverance, The Hills Have Eyes etc.) and it's not very fair.

I felt that even though, as a basic story, it worked by being quite tense and enjoyable and that it's subject matter is very modern but it becomes less about social networking and more about society. At one point, without trying to ruin it, the subject says "You gave me access to a life I could only dream of" - or something or other - and as scary as it might first appear, it's mainly just sad. Sometimes they have to just imagine living the lives people are luckily handed, that through this faceless media they can be someone else, they can live the lives they want and it's a question of who is taking advantage of who. In a strange way, they needed each other. Even if the Nev's one was more base perhaps.

Once the truth is found out, they stay there for a bit too long, they ask questions and pry into their lives. It's embarrassing to watch, especially since the subject in question is clearly a bit mental and it's almost poking fun under the guise of being serious. Whether or not people think it's fake, they can't deny that the guys knew that they had a film on their hands.

Overall, it's a good film to watch the once and if you've ever had a strange Friend Request on Facebook or if you've ever done online dating you'll probably enjoy it more, but really I felt it was strange from the beginning and got stranger as it continued. There's lying, but then there's another level of lying where it becomes a mental health problem and to exploit it, in the cleverest way of not exploiting it by making it a 'twist', then it becomes sensationalist. It's just cashing in on the whole Facebook popularity thing anyway whether it means to or not. I didn't like the guys involved, I didn't like the way the film was handled and I think underneath the fa├žade of it being a film about the dangers of Facebook, it's a horrible, selfish, mocking way of doing so. But saying that, I can't help but admit I enjoyed watching it, and clearly a lot of other people do as well, but I'm a bit worried that people are taking a bit too much pleasure in watching it and it's most certainly not particularly well made. It's a story - that's all, and they got lucky. They don't make the film what it is, the subject does. The idea of the catfish is also interesting, I think it leaves you with the thought of who the real 'catfish' is and, to some extent, it does inspire a lot of questions, but really I felt like this was three guys having a laugh and the tone displeased me. A decent watch and will make some interesting water cooler moments, but essentially nothing more than that. Go watch Black Swan.

Rating: 6/10

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