Capturing the Friedmans

This movie will pin you to your seat. It's the day before Thanksgiving in 1987 at an affluent home on Long Island. The Friedmans — husband Arnold, a teacher; his wife, Elaine; and their three sons, David, Seth and Jesse — are ready for dinner. Then the police batter down the front door and search the house for child pornography. For a decade, the family will be battered by accusations that Arnold, who taught computer classes in the family basement, had molested many of the young boys in his charge. Jesse, 18, is also implicated.

In gripping style, this haunting documentary uses interviews with family members and investigators, bolstered by home movies made by the Friedmans themselves that some have called "a tragic version of The Osbournes." It's more than that. Director Andrew Jarecki, the founder of Moviefone, has made a strikingly hard-nosed feature debut. He is unflinching as he digs into a disturbed family psyche where the only thing out of reach is the truth. It's a modern horror story that gets you where you live.

From The Archives Issue 924: June 12, 2003