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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

The Other Facebook Movie

Catfish was enjoyable to watch, but it unfolded in pretty much the way I would have expected it to.  Of course, I couldn’t have predicted exactly what these three young men would find, but from that first instant, it’s clear that it’s not going to end well.

For those who are unaware, Catfish is a documentary in which two young filmmakers (Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost) follow around Schulman’s photographer brother Nev after he befriends a family of artists that live in Michigan.  It starts when eight year old prodigy Abby sends Nev a painting she did based on a photograph he took.  Impressed by the work of such a young girl, Nev becomes her pen pal, then later chats with her mother and her older sister and brother and becomes friends with them all on Facebook.  After a while, Nev becomes rather fond of Abby’s older sister Megan and they start a long-distance relationship of sorts (long phone conversations, constant text contact) despite never having met each other.

One of my issues with the film really has nothing to do with the film itself; it’s about the marketing.  So much emphasis on the marketing has been on the “don’t spoil the secret twist for anyone” aspect of the film that it winds up detracting from what is otherwise a rather intriguing story.  It’s clear to any sentient human being that this story is not going to work out the way Nev so desperately wants it to and as the evidence of lies begin to mount, I wish I hadn’t been told by the marketing folks to expect some massive twist because it was kind of gently unfolding in a logical way.  I think it caused some disappointment on my part, expecting something truly mind-blowing when the reality of the situation was fairly obvious.  I’m going to delve into some spoiler-ish territory here, so don’t read onward if you don’t want to know about the “twist” which isn’t really a twist.

I think the film really finds its footing in terms of character and emotion when we reach the second half and discover that Nev has actually been fooled by one sad woman.  I think the most heartbreaking aspect of this whole episode is not her almost unbelievably depressing life, but Nev’s reaction to this.  I mean, throughout the film I was kind of shaking my head at Nev’s naivete, wondering how he could be so foolish as to be duped by this woman, despite the complexity of her hoax.  But when it sinks in for him that this woman that he developed feelings for was really a mother with a husband and two handicapped stepchildren, he does the most remarkable thing: he shows compassion.  He doesn’t get angry with Angela or scold her (maybe gently he does), but instead tries to understand her motivations for doing this.  One could say that Nev had cameras on him, so perhaps he was merely playing the hero for the sake of the film, but I felt he was genuinely sorry for this woman despite the fact that her actions had clearly hurt him.  That, to me, was the heart of the film.

Other than that, the three dudes (including the two directors) are enjoyable enough to be around; there’s a particularly endearing moment when Nev reads some of the risque texts that “Megan” had sent to him after realizing that she’s probably not real.

I suppose my biggest issue with the film was that the filmmakers were kind of narcissistic enough to believe that in the end, their story was the most interesting.  In fact, Angela’s story is the most compelling.  I think more experienced filmmakers might have gotten to that house and realized, “wow, let’s start here and follow Angela around for a year and learn about her life.”  Instead, they exploit her as this kind of tragic villain who swoops in at the end of the film when I think she’s got more of a story to tell.  But I think the truth of the matter is that these filmmakers didn’t have the means to follow her around for a year and they seemed too scared around the family to be comfortable enough doing so.  Regardless, I felt there was a missed opportunity there.

It’s funny to me when people refer to this as the “other Facebook movie” because I don’t think Catfish or The Social Network are about Facebook.  I think they are thematically about social media, but only tangentially.  The Social Network is about alienation and the founding of a company while Catfish is really about striving for connection by any means necessary.  Facebook, as an entity, is really just a MacGuffin for both of these movies and both films deserve better than to be labeled as merely “Facebook movies.”

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One Response to “The Other Facebook Movie”

  1. Mark says:

    Why Mark Zuckerman does not play himself in the movie? He is too busy working on Facebook? 🙂

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon