mfunk9786 wrote: ↑
Mon Jul 23, 2018 4:47 pm
It certainly plays as insensitive, but I don't think the point was meant to damn his father but more to show that playing God with the placement of children, when you have information at your disposal that perhaps a disciplinarian parent might not be a good fit with the [known, in this case] psychological health makeup of the child is potentially harmful. It served for me as an illustration of what's so ghoulish about this experiment moreso than as an indictment of the old man.
I felt like the hereditary mental health issue was ultimately a red herring. There's evidence it was a known issue with one other test subject, and the filmmakers try very hard to suggest it was also an issue with the brothers' birth mother, but was that in fact the case? The evidence is flimsy at best (she liked a drink; one of the brothers denies it was an issue and is then caught in a gotcha moment conceding "maybe? who knows?"; the brothers supposedly had "troubled adolescences", like a lot of adolescents and an awful lot of adopted adolescents), and surely it's something that's easy enough to research, since they know the identity of the woman. If there were any actual, concrete evidence that the mother had mental health issues (that the study designers would have been aware of), I'm sure it would have been presented in the film.
It's one of several instances in the film where the filmmakers are desperate to create sizzle in the absence of any evidence of steak.
The adoption agency's sinister champagne drinking - which we hear about multiple times - is a case in point. Maybe they were a bunch of evil masterminds toasting the success of their world domination scheme, or maybe they just had a drink after every board meeting, or it was Betty's birthday?
In general, I think the filmmakers go way overboard trying to imply a big, horrible conspiracy, when there are much more banal explanations available. Adoption in the 1950s and 60s was awash in secrecy. Psychiatry, medical trials and scientific studies likewise. God knows people didn't talk about mental illness if they could possible avoid it. This often had devastating consequences for the subjects of those practices: it's hardly unique to this story.
For me, this is more about how radically our expectations about informed consent and openness around issues like adoption have been transformed in half a century, and that in itself would have made a worthy and fascinating - albeit less sensationalistic - subject for a documentary.
The non-publication of the study also doesn't need to be a huge conspiracy. From what we know, it had to be abandoned rather than coming to whatever its intended conclusion might have been. As has been pointed out here, maybe it was so flawed from the outset that many of its findings were dubious. Perhaps most importantly, and most trivially, it was an expensive project and the money ran out.
Oh, and even the release of the study documents as an end credits footnote (they include extracts from the films shot of the triplets) is manipulated to appear as further evidence of a cover-up, with "all references to other test subjects redacted" - well, duh, of course they're going to protect the privacy of other test subjects, particularly with a documentary film crew poking around. It's a perfectly reasonable privacy (and legal) issue for those other subjects, not necessarily for the study.
Again, one has to assume that the released documents offer no support for any of the conspiracy theories the filmmakers are trying to float, or it would be paraded in the film. But rather than say that, they come up with insinuations that are presented just so in order to keep the conspiracy spark aglow. Considering that study had emerged as the film's white whale, it's telling that they don't even get into it once they finally have partial access to it.
Still, it's a lively, fascinating film for all its flaws.