Posted by Aaron West, 3/8/04
Capturing the Friedmans
Directed by Andrew Jarecki
Running Time: 107 Minutes
The Friedmans were a normal, tight knit family living in
suburban New York. Or were they? Andrew Jarecki's film begins
by showing several pleasant images and videos from their
private collection. We see them having fun together, celebrating
and just being together. At first glance, they appear to
be fine, but as the film progresses, we see that they aren't
quite fine at all. Instead they appear to be a little disfunctional,
or maybe even a little criminal.
This documentary is about the father, Arnold Friedman,
and his youngest son, Jessie Friedman, and the criminal
accusations leveled against them. Instead of focusing solely
on the case against them, Jarecki spends some time observing
(or developing) the family, and shows what impact the accusations
have on their lives together. We watch the family dynamic
tear apart, and he plants the seed that bad things happen
to good people.
Capturing the Friedmans is a documentary, but narratively
it resembles an entertaining feature film. The characters
are developed gradually, while relevatory events and key
pieces of evidence are carefully place so that they will
have the strongest emotional impact on the viewer. As an
entertaining story, Capturing the Friedmans succeeds admirably.
Unlike many other crime documentaries, Jarecki does not
come out on either side, guilt or innocence. Instead he
seems to provide evidence that supports as well as casts
doubt upon both sides of the story. By doing this, he lets
the viewer decide. In this way, the film resembles old mysteries
that don't reveal their secrets until the very end, only
Capturing the Friedmans doesn't provide the final payoff.
The presentation makes the film more entertaining, but
it also makes it a failure as a documentary. Jarecki is
so careful to remain unbiased that the story itself lacks
proper detail. At the end, we just don't know enough about
the case , which makes the film seem incomplete and slightly
unfulfilling. We want to know more.
Capturing the Friedmans is an easy film to watch, but don't
expect anything lasting that you will revisit over time.