Shari Springer, Robert Pulcini
Pat agreed, because whatís more fun than having cameras follow you everywhere but the bathroom? Craigís crew, newlyweds Alan and Susan (Patrick Fugit, Shanna Collins), watched the family day and night, going about their routines and embracing their hobbies. And thatís all it was supposed to be. As that, An American Family (which aired in 1973 on PBS as a 12-part series) would have been landmark, but not indelible. What made it memorable was a sudden dramatic turn. Partway through filming, Pat and Billís marriage started to deteriorate. He was away a lot on business, and Pat--with help from Craig--put it together that he was having multiple affairs.
Craigís insistence on capturing every second of the collapse, the pressure for ratings and his desire to see his vision reach millions, all brought up a number of ethical questions. Where are the boundaries? When is it OK to interfere, if ever? How much trust is there between producer and star?
But Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulciniís (American Splendor) Cinema Verite, which aired on HBO in April 2011, puts no complexity into the ideas. They lack a subtle approach on the subject and take an on-the-nose approach that limits more than it exposes. On top of that, so many scenes and lines feel as manipulated as every reality series on TV.
Gandfolini, Lane and Robbins all give character to their counterparts, but they are still confined by the simplicity of David Seltzerís script. What the behind-the-scenes story of An American Family needs is more drama, maybe in the form of a multi-part documentary.
The Making of Cinema Verite (3:31): This brief featurette uses interviews, clips and on-set footage to look at the cast, their characters and the movie.