September 24, 2010, - 2:00 pm

Weekend Box Office: “Catfish”

By Debbie Schlussel

Because of Jewish holidays and scheduling conflicts, I did not review anti-Semite/Hitler fan Oliver Stone‘s movie, “Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps” (which is probably an anti-capitalist piece of BS just like the original “Wall Street”), nor did I review “You Again.”  I will probably see both when I’m back from the Jewish holidays and Sabbath and post my reviews, as well as reviews of movies for which I did not post reviews on the day I had a bad migraine headache.  But I did see “Catfish,” which has been getting a lot of buzz on the net through masterful viral marketing.  And here is my review:

In 2007, Yaniv Schulman, a photographer and filmmaker based in New York took a photo which, like some of his other work, was published in a newspaper.  Soon after, he received a photo of a painting by Abby, an eight-year-old girl in Northern Michigan, which looked exactly like the photo.  Thereafter, Schulman, who goes by the name “Nev,” started an online, Facebook friendship with the girl, her mother, her beautiful model-esque half-sister, etc.  He was sent more and more paintings and fell in love with the half-sister, with whom he’d only spoken on the phone.  This idyllic family seemed so perfect.  But was it?  And how much did the filmmakers really know about their subjects?

Schulman’s brother and fellow videographer/photographer, Ariel a/k/a “Rel” and their partner, Henry Joost, see something going on here and decide to start filming a documentary about it.  That’s a hint, right there.

The rest of my review contains spoilers, so if you are extremely naive and won’t figure out what’s going on in this movie from the very beginning and don’t wanna find out, stop reading here.  For everyone else . . .

****  SPOILER ALERT  ****

If you’ve been an online writer and/or web-based personality for a while, you learn to spot fakes, scammers, and put-ons very quickly.  You learn to use google, to check things out, and double-check stories.  I’ve had so many people try to put one over on me, but I always catch them.  Sadly, even with all of these research tools at hand, some people–even people with big names whose faulty research skills are unduly respected–are stupid and lazy (like Michelle Fraudkin, who quickly and easily fell for scammer Eitan Gorlin, posing as “McCain campaign adviser, Martin Eisenstadt”–think about that the next time you read her “work).  They accept things at face value and don’t think twice.  In short, if you weren’t a critical thinker who questions things, you won’t become one just because there’s an internet.  In fact, you’ll become easily scammed–all the more easily online.

That’s what happened with Nev Schulman, if we’re to believe he’s that gullible.  And perhaps he is.  Or perhaps he pretends to be to make this movie and really knows better.  But I spotted what was going on in this movie from the very, very beginning.  It was so obvious, I saw it a mile away and I believe that you, my critically thinking readers, would easily spot it, too.

The eight-year-old girl is never available to speak on the phone, and yet her mother and half-sister are available, though never at the same time.  While the shallow and not-too-sharp Schulman is discussing having sex with and taking the virginity this voice and picture he’s never met, he’s being had.  He’s a “smarter-than-thou” big city guy with a stupid tramp-stamp tattoo on his lower back, who’s been bested by a far more clever, overweight small-town woman with a very sad life.

The Schulman brothers and Joost suddenly start to question things when they realized a song the beautiful half-sister “recorded” is actually one ripped off from someone else whose song appeared on the show, “One Tree Hill.”  They find other songs ripped off from professional artists on YouTube.  And they decide to take a trip to small-town Northern Michigan to meet the alleged 10-year-old and her “charming” family, uninvited.

Nothing turns out as it seems, and upon seeing who this woman really is–this middle-aged overweight woman, who is all the personalities she created online, but who is nonetheless a talented artist–I felt for her and was kind of disgusted that the movie was made.  The woman is the mother to two severely mentally and physically disabled twin boys.  Her life is not one anyone would envy.  It’s heart-breaking.  And I can understand why she made up this fake life as a 10-year-old phenom artist and her gorgeous half-sister.

I don’t condone online fakery, as people try to scam me all the time (but aren’t successful).  But that’s what people do online all the time, every single second.  Is it unethical? Yes.  But is it a crime that justified making a movie about ambushing this pathetic woman and her tough life?  No way.  Making this movie off of this woman’s back and embarrassing her to the world–instead of just cutting off contact with her and moving on–disgusted me, and it’s even more unethical.  She apparently gave her consent or the documentary couldn’t have been made, but I felt for her, despite her internet fakery.  What she did wasn’t nearly as bad as what the filmmakers did, in order to become the stars and darlings of Hollywood.

Yes, the movie was somewhat clever–if you didn’t figure it out two seconds into the flick.  And it was definitely entertaining, if long and slow at times.   But to me, this movie was yet more liberal Hollywood/New York disdain for small town, main street America.  And the elitism long ago grew old, stale, and rancid.  And that’s the bottom line here.  The people who made this movie are too arrogant, too self-important and smart by half, to realize they are the idiots here.

Why is the movie called, “Catfish”?  Well, the smartest thing said in this movie is uttered by the woman’s real-life, small-town Michigan working-class husband, and he says catfish were put in shipments of other fish from Asia to keep the other fish on their toes, so they didn’t get slimy and dead.

I have more admiration for the scammer catfish in this movie–the small-town Michigan woman with the fake Facebook persona–than I’ll ever have for these smug dudes who thought they’d get her by ambushing and embarrassing her on the silver screen.

TWO MARXES (entertaining but elitist and easy to figure out)
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14 Responses

I live in a small town and no one really passes through it. I can describe it in three words: beautiful, innocent and trusting. People do business in it in a way that they’ve forgotten how to do in the cynical, restless world out there. Hollywood thinks that small town America can’t be that good. Now who is putting whom over whom? In this movie, you learn that Hollywood’s love of appearances are a reflection of the kind of the country its in love with.

NormanF on September 24, 2010 at 6:21 pm

True ugliness? Look in the mirror!

That’s the essence of “Catfish”!

NormanF on September 24, 2010 at 8:58 pm

So she wasn’t in Nigeria like all the rest of them?

ender on September 24, 2010 at 9:03 pm

So getting a Marx isn’t necessarily a bad thing?

Norman Blitzer on September 24, 2010 at 10:34 pm

They’ve turned a Law and Order SVU show into a feature length movie.

Who says Hollywood’s out of ideas!?!??!?

Matt on September 25, 2010 at 12:20 am

If this was the very early days of the internet I could possibly see how somebody could be fooled by a fake online personality, but this is 2010 !!!

Anybody with the IQ of moss knows not to believe any online personality.

Online it’s the easiest thing in the world to pass yourself off as a 14 year old girl one day and a 90 year old man the next.
The real story is the mind-numbing stupidity of the film makers.

smg45acp on September 25, 2010 at 9:17 am

Sounds like something for Hoprah to hype. Oops wait, the GUYS are TRYING to be the victims here. Sad. She probably signed off for the cash promise.

Samurai on September 25, 2010 at 10:04 am

Wow. I’ll avoid this horrible piece of crap. Watching someone get humiliated is a favourite past-time of mine./SARC

It sort of reminds me of this interesting (but annoying) doco a few years back by someone named Bar Lev (was that his name?).

It was called “My Kid Could Draw That” and you can tell the subjects were scamming. It made me so angry and I wonder if the cheats were ever exposed? Some people are so shallow it just makes me ill.

Skunky on September 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm

No fan of Oliver Stone, but calling the first “Wall Street” anti-capitalist is a stretch. The only bad guy in the first movie was Gordon Gekko, and he either intimidated or pressured everybody else, including Charlie Sheen. (Ah, the 80s! Then again … never mind.) The fact is that similar to the previous decade, there were A TON of scandals on Wall Street, insider trading and what have you, and it was perfectly legitimate for Hollywood to make a movie on what was basically a Michael Millken type character (and remember Millken wasn’t taken down by a liberal Democrat like Eliot Spitzer, but by Rudy Giuliani, who was then working for the Reagan administration). It is not being “anti-capitalist” to go after folks in the private sector who are corrupt, because private sector criminality is precisely what the leftists use as an excuse to get into office and tax and regulate. It was those corporate scandals that gave us speaker Pelosi, majority leader Reid, and President Obama more than anything else, especially when you consider that Obama was elected after the Iraq mess was gotten back under control with the surge.

Now granted, we do need more movies (or at least some movies) on government corruption, as well at what goes on with these activist groups like ACORN, SEIU and what have you. But you can’t have stuff like Tyco, WorldCom, Enron, Arthur Anderson etc. or incompetence that resulted in so many of our banks and automakers needing bailouts without expecting somebody to make a movie about it. It would be great if more conservatives were to come out and say “Hey, those guys screwed up” instead of trying to blame everything on unions and the Community Reinvestment Act (when the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act played a much bigger role).

Gerald on September 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Way too similar to The Night Listener (2006). How did Peter Travers get fooled?

Red Ryder on September 27, 2010 at 9:17 am

What if the woman who signed off on the deal is getting a piece of the profits and will use the money to raise her family? Then, the real idiots will be those who go to the theater to see this drek!

BK on September 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Much worse was the fat middle-aged woman who pretended to be her attractive daughter and tricked some poor sap into falling for the ruse. Then the woman threw in another guy into the mix (a real unsuspecting person) to make the sap jealous. And it worked like an evil charm. The sap found the “other bf” and shot him dead. Two lives ruined because an online fraud was sad and lonely.

Ed on September 30, 2010 at 3:16 am

Just watched it for the first time for a class. Whether or not this documentary was fabricated or not, I find it absolutely ridiculous that you have more admiration for Angela than the guys making the movie. I mean, she was essentially having an affair with Nev and hiding it from her husband. How on earth could she fabricate so much (though she obviously developed real feelings for Nev) and not expect it to effect her family? How is no one noticing that the messages she exchanged pretending to be another person, but like she said, ‘was really herself’ betrayal to her family? It’s sickening.

Kelsy on March 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Funny how just reading a “simple” review, one can identify this writers political leanings. Similarly amusing is how she is almost the drama queen she hints at the film makers to be. I have never heard of her before, simply Googled the description of the documentary(I had forgotten the title), and this is what comes up. After reading her not so subtle jabs at the left, I then Googled her, she prides herself on being second to Ann Coulter (EWWWW)….. I am no idealogue, but sensationalist like her and all the others Limbaughs and Olbermans alike, that our country is in the state is in now, unable to move forward. Idiots cheer for political parties like football teams and never bother to check facts or look at results… Rant over!!

Unfriend on May 7, 2012 at 1:30 am

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