"Capturing the Friedmans"
Directed by Andrew Jarecki.
Release Year: 2003
Review Date: 6/16/03
Sunny, 75 degrees, no wind, blue skies.
What better way to spend a Fathers’ Day afternoon than to watch a
film about a father with a penchant for molesting young boys?
That’s exactly what I was thinking, too!
(Just kidding...really!) Our programmer for the Sunday Night Film
Club that I am in decided on “Capturing the Friedmans” and I must
say, it was a good call. An eye-opening documentary that details a
sodomy case from the late 80s, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki presents
“Capturing the Friedmans” as a very ambiguous retelling of what
happened surrounding events that took place in the Friedman
household. There’s Arnie, the father that gets caught with a
large stack of child pornography in the home; he teaches a computer
class out of his house for neighborhood adolescents and might have
been involved in some illicit activities with some of the students.
There’s wife Elaine, who talks about a loveless marriage as if she
was never a member of it; son Seth didn’t even want to talk about
it. The other two sons are the most intriguing characters of the
film--David, the oldest, to this day believes that his father was
set up by Nassau County police; Jesse was suspected of beating and
sodomizing so many of the father’s students that he looks like the
What makes all of the events surrounding the
family’s molestation case more stunning is that through recountings
by family members and from home videos the family has kept, they
seem like the ideal family--happy, loving, in a solid middle-class
home with a bright future ahead of them. Oh, except for that whole
“Leapfrog” game that Dad used to play with some of his
students...while they were naked. Or the fact that Dad used to
perform sexual acts on his younger brother when the two were
children. It is fascinating to watch the videos that the family
made, many of which serve as a glimpse into what it might be like to
live in a house where the parents are always fighting, or kids film
personal diaries, or where Dad makes jokes about having to go off to
jail when he really IS about to go off to jail.
Jarecki does a great job of pointing fingers
at a variety of sources, not just Arnie, who is initially made to
look like the worst pedophile in the history of pedophiles. The
conflicting evidence given by the police officers interviewed also
helps create the fog that surrounds what really happened during
those computer classes in the Friedmans’ home; a sheer lack of
physical evidence and interviews from students that may have been
coerced leads one to uncomfortably assume that maybe this patriarch
might be clean after all.
But, “Capturing the Friedmans” doesn’t dwell
so much on the right and wrong of it; highlighting the essence of
the dysfunctional family is so fascinating to watch that I was
hooked in for the film’s entire running time. I can’t even imagine
how a film like this must look for someone that lived with parents
that seemed to fight like this, or in a house where a member faced
such adversity from the outside world. Solid stuff, but it might
not be showing everywhere so do some digging to find out where it is
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard