Who's In It: Nev Schulman, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost, Angela Wesselman-Pierce
The Basics: Stop reading right now if you want to participate in the marketing scam being perpetrated by the people releasing this film. I'm talking about the one where they keep telling you not to let anyone tell you what it's about. I'm also talking about how it's being sold as a "thriller" and, based on the perceptions of some people I know who haven't seen it yet, a kind of horror film. The trailer compares it to Hitchcock. And it's none of those things. It's a documentary about some young, hip New York guys who find themselves duped by a woman on Facebook. Or do they?
What's The Deal: I've had a few weeks to think about this and I'm just going to say it all right here. Again, turn back now if you don't want to know what happens. But Nev and his brother Ariel find themselves attached to a young girl and her mother on Facebook. The young girl is ostensibly an artist (one whose work isn't even idiosyncratic enough to be called true "outsider art." The mother helps sell and promote her paintings. There's a hot older sister involved, too, and the hot older sister develops an online crush on Nev, who reciprocates. You can see where this is going. All these people really exist, but the mother is making up everything else, constructing a few dozen Facebook accounts, faking voices on the phone, inventing lives and scenarios and stealing the photo-identities of others to keep the multiple storylines going.
What's The Deal, Part 2: First of all, this film would have been intriguing enough without the mystery marketing campaign. There was a story on This American Life involving the original Broadway cast of Rent and how they were duped by a fan with fake cancer. And Ira Glass just introduces it as a story about lying. It happens. People construct new online stories for themselves to make life seem more exciting. And if everything in this movie happened the way the filmmakers say it did then I would have accepted it right from the start and not kept wondering when the murders were going to start and when the Blair Witch was going to show up. But I think this story of lying is also a lie. I can't believe that no one thought to Google this alleged rising young art star or this family earlier in the process. I don't believe that savvy young filmmakers would allow themselves to be fooled for this long. My theory is that they knew the truth earlier than they claim to have learned it and strung the compulsively lying mom along for the sake of their movie. They claim otherwise and I'm not the first person to suggest this. And, no, I have no evidence to support my gut feeling. They stick to their story and they do so adamantly. But something here really smells just like the word used in the title.
More Questions: Since when do pathological liars break down and confess on camera as though they were guest-starring on an episode of Law & Order? That's what happens here. And again, I don't buy it.