Movie Review: Catfish - How Dishonest Marketing Can Ruin a Film

MovieRantReviewby Wejo

Over the course of cinematic history there have been many projects relating to one “-eption” or another. Be it Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Inception co-star Ellen Paige’s vehicle Juno (Conception, Check. Contraception – Check) or Wedding Crashers (Reception – Check), there’s no denying it’s a popular way to end a word in Hollywood. Out of all the examples of “-eptions” in Hollywood, I feel the worst is deception, at least when it comes to marketing. 

I found out last weekend that a theater near me (does approximately 90 miles away count as near?) was showing the “is it real or fake” documentary Catfish. You’ve all seen the trailer for this, right? If not or you wish to refresh yourselves, I’ll embed the clip to enhance your reading experience; once you’ve watched the clip, meet me below it for further discussion.

Right about now, you’re likely thinking “this looks like an amazing, Blair Witch-esque suspense thriller using Facebook dating as a plot device.” Odds are you also got excited at the critical praise appearing at the end mentioning the emotional roller coaster the “final 40 minutes of the film” would take you on and how it was the “best film Hitchcock never made.” If you happened to see a poster for it in your local cinema, I’m going to also assume the tagline “Don’t let anyone tell you what it is” also titillated you. I’ll respect the movie posters wishes (for now) and won’t tell you what the film is, but what it is not. Catfish is NOT suspenseful, mysterious, or thrilling. 

Be warned that next four paragraphs completely spoil the film. Between you and me, though, knowing what the “big twist” actually is will encourage you to wait to rent the film or skip it altogether.

Okay, now that I’m below the spoiler warning I’ll reveal what the film actually is – a so-so documentary about the perils of using social networks to date. What’s the big twist? The attractive girl our protagonist is chatting with in the trailer was actually the creation of a lonely housewife named Angela living in Michigan. No one was murdered, probed or violated in any other way by tech savvy Catfish-men. 

Yaniv, the aforementioned protagonist, first comes into contact with Angela (and her many online aliases) through her 8-year old daughter/alleged painting prodigy Abby, who actually exists. Yaniv is a photographer/filmmaker and one of his published photos was noticed and painted by Abby. Her mother sent him a print of her work and an instant online friendship was born. Eventually, he connects with her whole family online and talks to a few of them on the phone, most notably Angela, the mother, and Megan, the sister/smokin’ hot biddy our hero is preparing to visit in the trailer. 

Yaniv and “Megan” soon strike up a romance via the phone and Facebook. Things seem to be going quite well until one night when she decides to send him a few of “her” songs. A quick Google search reveals that all the songs she sent to him were actually performed by established artists.  After this, more and more flaws in his new friends’ life stories are uncovered which inspires him to visit them IRL (in real life, LOL). When his filmmaking company is hired to record some jazz dance troupe in the Midwest, he does just that which is exactly what he does.

Angela is a bit flabbergasted that he actually showed up. She is, of course, not as attractive as her profile nor does she have a 19-year old daughter named Megan. She does, however, have an 8-year old daughter named Abby with less-than-prodigious art skills. Turns out the real Angela is a painter and did all the work her daughter was credited with. Did this inspire anger in Yaniv and/or make him leave immediately? Nope, but it did inspire an intimate chat between the two of them about her feelings and why she did what she did. According to the text summary that played before the credits, the two of them remain friends to this day. 

Okay, no more plot-specific spoilers. I promise. 

The marketing for Catfish had everyone who saw it convinced they were watching a suspense thriller that may or may not have elements of the supernatural. From the ominous ending of the trailer to the posters’ urging you to keep your lips sealed on what the film actually was, it really seemed like you were in for a thrill ride. Some might argue that the studio hoped to mirror the sense of betrayal felt by Yaniv in the film upon finding out whom he was really talking to; however, I think it was merely an attempt to bring more people into the theaters. Had someone told me “what it really was” before going in there’s no way I’d have driven any distance to see it, be it approximately 90 miles or 5. I would have likely given it a rent/Netflix Instant Watch and been more inclined to enjoy it, though. 

Did you get a chance to see Catfish? If so, please comment with your thoughts on the way it was marketed and the film itself. 


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