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Kino Korner December 12, 2003
Spooning With The Friedmans
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
Page 2 of 3
"In the end, while Jarecki [the director] may not be able to answer our most basic questions about the guilt or innocence of the Friedmans, he makes a profound statement that, in situations like this, no one can be completely innocent and everyone is a victim."

-- James Berardinelli, REELVIEWS

Berardinelli clearly is struggling with a way to frame his reaction to this movie, and as Walter Sobchak would say, "He's cracking, Dude." If you keep your bearings by the end of this movie, then by any civilized standard, this is not about the father and youngest son being "also victims." Just because they are humanized it does not take away from the fact that they are sick fucks who pose a clear and present danger to young boys everywhere. Berardinelli is struggling with his own demons here, his own confused sympathy. If you know Berardinelli and you are reading this, call the police immediately and have him locked up.

"This extraordinary film refracts truth through the prism of memory, until what you get is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions, full of sacrifice and betrayal."

-- Jami Bernard, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Uh, no, the Friedmans are not Hamlet or Macbeth. They are common. They are your neighbors. They are quite possibly you. They seem Shakespearean only because they are on film and they are exhibitionists. Wake up! All of these horrible domestic crimes go on all around you! They are the reality TV that you have probably watched but never seen.

"Leo Tolstoy wrote that 'every unhappy family is unhappy in its own fashion,' but not even he could have invented the Friedmans."


There they go again, denying the total familiarity of the Friedmans by trying to elevate them to the world of fiction, and not just any fiction but epic tragedy, as a way of coping. The pain the viewer feels is like that pain of watching a tragedy, but believe me, it's an entirely different illness that causes this feeling. For Mark Caro to reduce it all to a banal citation of Tolstoi is denial so glaring that there is no choice but to obtain a court order to have him castrated immediately.

The truth is that every house holds horrible and dark secrets, some worse than others. Most people will deny the worst, even though it happens right in front of their faces. You could spend years getting beaten and verbally abused by one parent, and the other parent or sibling will genuinely not remember a single moment of it. Perhaps you won't either.

I grew up in the suburbs of San Jose. I went to a public school in one of the nice parts of town. A few years after graduating, I began to understand the students, especially some of the girls, much better. One after another, I heard about popular girls who had been molested or raped, and each story explained how they had fallen apart. Some had dropped out, some had become sluts, some had closed up for good. A home is a horrible place.

One of the more painful parts is the confession Arnold, the father, gives admitting that, as a child listening to his mother fuck her boyfriends in their studio basement apartment, he molested his younger brother. His younger brother still has absolutely no recollection of it, even though it went on for years. He loved and supported his brother right up to the end.

Everyone's a victim? Maybe. Poor Arnold Friedman, a pained, nerdish closet homosexual married to a cold, sullen woman, locked into a miserable life...what joy is there for him but the fantasy of fondling boys, or worse. Everything he wants so inaccessible, so illegal. And every night three boys sleep in his house, and every day more boys come to his house for computer or piano lessons. Lust and desire that he could not control...sure, on some Schopenhauerian level, he is a victim, as all criminals are. Just the fact that so many viewers were shocked to see a child molester as a human -- and found some way to sympathize with him -- only proves again the power of denial.

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