The Catfish Network

I saw two movies this weekend and it turns out that I'd inadvertently stumbled into a great double-feature. Based on the cryptic but positive comments on the /Filmcast a few weeks ago (not their recent review), I made a mental note to see the movie Catfish. I knew nothing about the movie except that a couple people on the internet found it interesting. In this world of constant film scoops and trailers that spoil the movie, it's pretty rare for me to see a movie without ever having heard of it, so I relish these opportunities.

Also opening this weekend is a movie I knew too much about: The Social Network. Directed by David Fincher with a script by Aaron Sorkin, this was one of the years most hotly anticipated films. The original teaser trailer, featuring a striking cover of Radiohead's "Creep" by a Belgian girls' choir and a quasi-cheesy montage of Facebook clicking, was intriguing, but the expanded trailer that featured actual footage of the film was... not so encouraging. Fincher's track record of the past few years has been a bit spotty. I really liked Zodiac, but it certainly had its problems. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a bit of a mess, but it was watchable. In both cases, I think my problems were more with the script than with Fincher (though I guess you could say his judgment of what to work on was lacking). So when i saw that Fincher was making a movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook, I was a bit skeptical. The involvement of Aaron Sorkin did pique my interest for a bit, but then I realized that his record over the past few years has also been a bit spotty. The trailers did nothing to help my skepticism... so imagine my surprise when I ended up loving the movie.

It is, of course, a really strange movie. I don't normally care for biopics, but this one gets it exactly right - it focuses on one, well defined episode in someone's life (where most biopicks get bogged down in tangents and don't really have a point). This is a good thing in any case, though perhaps it's even moreso because Zuckerberg is only 26 years old (or perhaps they were forced to limit their scope because he was so young). Anyway, the movie is fantastic. Sorkin's script is crackling with fast-paced, witty dialogue, the actors seem to be able to handle that, Trent Reznor's score is surprisingly well matched, and Fincher ties it all together.

The most interesting thing, though, is that I have no idea how much of it is true. It's not a documentary and I'm positive the story has been simplified and dramatized. Seeing that alone would have been interesting, but seeing it on the same day I saw Catfish was positively serendipitous. You see, Catfish is also about Facebook (after a fashion) and it actually is a documentary. And yet... I have no idea how much of it is true.

I don't want to give anything away with Catfish, so I'm not going to go into too much detail. There is definitely something real about the documentary, but there's also something a little fishy (pun intended!) about it. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter. Even if it was entirely fake (and it's not), it would be a worthwhile story (albeit one with relatively low stakes).

The Social Network tells the story about the founding of Facebook. Catfish depicts one of the interesting effects that Facebook has lead to (though it's not entirely reliant on Facebook)... If you're into movies, it's a great double-feature to take in.