“Catfish” is all about chasing a story, and that means lots of hand-held camera scenes in cars and hotel rooms and kitchens and the front porches of homes that we’re waiting to enter and get someone to finally tell us the truth. The shots will be incredibly familiar to any film student who has gone out with an HD camera and half an idea for a short video.
The fresh-faced filmmakers, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, seem to have only half an idea when their documentary story starts, and any future fame will be the result of Ariel’s brother Yaniv willing to play along. Yaniv, or Nev, is a New York City photographer (likely freelance), but more importantly he is a natural in front of the camera: handsome and likable. Best of all, he seems believably gullible and sincerely determined to find out if he’s being conned. Nev gets a painting from Abby, an 8-year-old from Michigan, who based it on one of Nev’s photos that appeared in a local paper. She seems an amazing painter, and through her Nev gets to develop a relationship by phone and on Facebook with Abby’s mom Angela and Abby’s half-sister Megan. Nev and Megan soon kindle some intense, long-distance romantic feelings. They can’t wait to meet and see if they are destined for each other. What a nice documentary. Oh, then again, maybe it’s not all it seems.
If “The Social Network” shows that the hunger for fame and power is still with us in the Internet age, “Catfish” reminds us that we still can’t believe everything we see, even if it’s on a friend’s Facebook page.
Worth seeing? I’d say ‘Yes,” if you like watching hungry storytellers trying to find a story and a ticket to the Big Film that they’re going to make next time. But you’ve got to be willing to play along the way Nev does. Otherwise, you may feel it’s too much of an imposition.
Note to self: May want to take some dramamine next time to fight off the dizzying effects of hand-held camera work on the big screen.
— Robert Digitale