Six months ago I saw Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost‘s Catfish (Rogue/Universal, 9.17) at Sundance. It’s “engrossing and certainly reflective of cyber-culture relationship intrigues, but I wasn’t exactly levitating out of my seat,” I wrote. “I also found it a bit curious — the film’s depiction of hinterland culture suggests echoes of American kookery unbound.”

SPOILER WARNING: “During the first 60% of Catfish Nev Schulman — a smart, confident and attractive 24 year old who’s the main protagonist — falls into an intriguing online flirtation with an attractive 20something lady who lives in Michigan. (Or so she says.) Their exchanges become more and more emotional and sensual. Then they become explicitly sexual. And then suddenly things change.”

“Once this sinks in it’s quite clear that Nev is fairly glum — you could even say forlorn. And for me this didn’t quite calculate.

“I asked myself why would a guy in the youthful prime of his life get so invested in a woman he’s never met, and whom he knows only through a gallery of online photos and a series of increasingly erotic e-mails? Who would be naive enough in this day and age to get emotionally caught up in a relationship of this sort?

“This seemed especially curious for a guy who’s clearly smart and good-looking and creative and whatnot, and living in a city like New York with all kinds of hook-up options. I could imagine Clem Kadiddlehopper falling for this. Or an overweight dweeby type with halitosis getting caught up in an online fantasy because he might not have much going on. But a guy like Nev…? Doesn’t figure.”