Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers.
On the internet, you can be anyone you want. You can become the person you’ve always dreamed of. To the people you fool, though, you could become the person of their dreams. And when the worlds of fantasy and reality collide, the results can be devastating and heartbreaking.
“Catfish” is the purportedly true story of Yaniv “Nev” Schulman, a photographer living in New York with his filmmaker brother and friend. When one of Schulman’s photos is painted and sent to him by eight-year-old Abby Pierce, he becomes involved with the young girl’s family, including her mother Angela Wesselman. Through Facebook, phone calls and e-mails, Schulman is drawn into their life and begins to fall for Abby’s half-sister Megan. Desperate to meet her, he and his roommates decide to take a trip to the family’s hometown. There they discover the truth behind the paintings, the family and the Facebook profiles.
This isn’t exactly the movie the trailers were making it out to be. It’s not a horror film or a hardcore suspense thriller, but a movie about deception and the lengths one will go to keep those deceptions up. In the end we find out that Wesselman is the creator of everything. Abby is not the painter, her mother is. Megan does not exist in the way Wesselman said she did. Angela is a woman in her forties that has fabricated nearly every aspect of her life. In reality, she lives at home with her husband Vince, Abby and her husband’s two mentally handicapped sons.
“Catfish” is really more sad than suspenseful. We’re given a woman who was so desperate to escape her surroundings that she went to making up numerous Facebook profiles and carrying multiple cell phones in order to deceive Schulman. In the final act, Schulman finally confronts Wesselman and she comes clean about everything that she’s done. However, with a level of deceit this large it’s hard to believe what she’s saying and not just think of it as a new set of lies.
Angela smiles and laughs about her exploits when speaking of them, as if she’s proud she was able to keep her lies going for so long. She talks about her life and how she had thrown it away at a young age. She’s a woman to be pitied. It’s hard to stay mad at someone who is so clearly emotionally disturbed.
In Angela’s defense, Schulman is not hard to become enamored with. He’s sweet, beautiful and kind. He exudes a youthful, infectious exuberance for life. Like Wesselman puts it, “You’re able to show me things I don’t have access to.” Schulman’s patience can only go so far, though, and he becomes frustrated with her and declares he wants to go home.
I’m still torn as to whether or not “Catfish” is actually true, but in the end it doesn’t matter. If it is true, it’s even more disturbing for happening in our area. I think we may often see a story of this nature and assume it couldn’t happen here, but it did. It happened right in our backyard. If it turns out to be false, it’s still one of the most entertaining films of the year. It’s fast paced and superbly edited. The music is also great and borrows from the films of Wes Anderson, of whom the filmmakers are clearly fans. The use of Google maps for montage sequences is a stroke of brilliance and helps remind us just how accessible our private information is.
According to Vince Pierce, Angela’s husband, catfish are used to keep cod fresh and agile on their way to the Chinese market. Vince thanks God for the catfish in life and that’s what he obviously sees Angela as, a catfish who keeps people “on their toes” and aware of their surroundings. Schulman may not have wanted what he went fishing for, but what he caught will affect his life forever.