Capturing the Friedmans

Director: Andrew Jarecki
Year Released: 2003
Rating: 3.5

Heartbreaking (meta-)documentary about a family that is flagrantly ruined by fraudulent charges of child molestation, a mother's egomania and a father's repressed pedophilia and guilt. In a remarkable 'twist,' the Friedman family, while this was all happening, was recording the conversations and breakdowns on audio and video tape, as if they were trying to avoid the pain of their predicament by viewing it from a safe distance - when Jesse goofs off outside the courthouse before being sent to jail, he's clearly in denial. It's revolting to see these lawyers and "victims" from Arnold Friedman's computer class invent stories and lie repeatedly to make up for their past lies, and particularly unsettling to see "experts" so ignorantly botch an investigation. I actually started tearing up at one point in the film where the sons try valiantly to defend their slump-shouldered father from their shrill mother - he is so embarrassed by his own weakness he's barely able to speak. As an examination of America's perplexing hysteria with what Frank Rich calls "the last taboo," it's vital, clear-headed and rational - however, I must admit to being nagged somewhat by the reluctance of the middle child, Seth, to appear on camera or allow himself to be interviewed. He was one of the cameramen in the Friedman household, and since he wasn't involved personally in the case - he, too, was essentially a voyeur in his own home - his own views on the situation would have been relevant.