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Movie Review: Capturing the Friedmans

Story: Levity, brevity and a bit of gravity are the three things that I strive to achieve when writing these Lobo Howls Reviews. This haunting, absolutely fabulous must see documentary by director Andrew Jarecki might not allow me to achieve my usual goal.

Remember those alleged child sex abuse headline grabbing witch hunts of the 80's? There was the McMartin case in California, the Kelly Michael's case in New Jersey and the Friedman case in Great Neck, Long Island. It was mass community hysteria that hopefully is behind us (although I am not confident of that).

Director Jarecki had intended to make a film about David Friedman, NY's #1 Birthday Party Clown, but when introduced to the treasure trove of his family home movies his subject matter changed dramatically. Instead, we meet Arnold and Elaine Friedman and their three sons, David, Seth and Jesse. (The film won 'Best Documentary' at the Sundance Film Festival recently.)

This film recalls brilliantly the destruction of a family. It has everything a film needs to have. It is a mystery, it is compelling, it has interesting characters, it makes you think (a lot) and it is true. Throw in social commentary, police malfeasance, legal manipulation and a bit of comedy and you have one heck of a film.

I suggest when you see this film you take a movie buddy. This is the type of film that warrants discussion. My opinion changed often while viewing the film, because Jarecki allows us to draw our own conclusions about the guilt or innocence of these people.

Acting: Not applicable in a documentary.

Predilection: I like documentary films.

Critters: Three cows, a cat and a dog - all bit players.

Food: It is a Jewish household so there is certainly food. There are also many family discussions and scenes take place either around the table or in the kitchen.

Soundtrack: I don't remember much of the soundtrack but I know it was not distracting.

Theater Audience: A small but riveted crowd. I think this film will become popular through word of mouth. I did laugh when the first commercial to come onto the screen was that awful add for Moviefone (you know the one that features the chimpanzees using computers)? Moviefone was director Andrew Jarecki's brainchild company before he sold it to AOL for a gazillion dollars.

Quirky Meter: 5

Squirm Scale: 3 (the topic of child abuse/pedophilia is not an easy subject).

Tissue Usage: I was overwhelmed at the end of the film and had a few tears to shed for this family.

Oscar Worthy: Yes.

Nit Picking: None.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen, for sure. How about renting Eugene Jarecki's (Andrew's brother) film The Trials of Henry Kissinger. I recently saw that one on cable TV and was riveted by his absorbing account about Kissinger (don't get me started on him).

Length: 90 minutes.