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Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

July 25, 2009

8/10 Emergency Family Meetings

It’ll touch some nerves and it’s not exactly the feel-good movie of 2003, but a good, complex documentary all the same.

Capturing the Friedmans is about an otherwise normal Jewish family from Long Island – a husband, wife, and three sons. A shining example of the white picket fence, happy American family.

Then one day, the father of the family and one of his sons are arrested under child molestation charges and, as you might expect, the Friedmans’ lives are turned upside-down from that point on.

Nope, I didn’t see that one coming either.

Upon reading that synopsis over, it occurs to me that you probably already know whether you want to see this movie or not, but what the hell, I’ll keep on going.

I came across this movie after seeing it mentioned a couple times in various reviews of Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father, and since that was the best movie of 2008, figured this would be one worth watching. And like Dear Zachary, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The movie’s director, Andrew Jarecki, paints an impartial picture for the audience, leaving it up to us to decide whether the Friedmans are guilty or innocent based on the evidence at hand and a slew of reliable/unreliable testimonies from anyone and everyone that was affected by the events at hand. He’s not pointing the finger or trying to draw out your sympathies, and that’s a big reason why this movie works. And considering how touchy and ambiguous the subject matter is, the last thing people want to see is a movie defending guilty child molesters or lambasting innocent victims.

So all you really have to go off of is your gut, I guess. But I like that. I like movies that kind of mess with their audience’s moral frameworks and keeps you talking long after with other people that have similar or differing opinions on the matter.

The other thing that makes this story so compelling aside from how it’s presented is that the Friedmans are just a strangely compelling family to watch. All of them react differently to the circumstances at hand and it’s unreal how they all of open up about something so intensely personal.

It’s heartbreaking to watch their family slowly fall apart at the seams and, man, their grief sure takes some interesting forms. I like to believe that I’ll never be in a situation where I find myself getting ready to go to prison for the rest of my life, but if one day the feds finally catch up to me, you can bet your ass I won’t be obliviously joking and laughing while my kids film me parading around on the day before I get locked up. But then again, who am I to say anything.

Capturing the Friedmans is a tough movie to say the least, but it’s an incredibly revealing “behind closed doors” look into the underbelly of the American family that rarely gets this kind of raw exposure. The point is, don’t look at child pornography. Not a good path to go down.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 9, 2010 12:05 pm

    This film touches on so much with this family, and how human relations really are, that it was just too real. Check out my review when you can: Nice Review!

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