Freaky families, shut-ins (often in the form of outsider artists), and pop-culture fandom are irresistible to documentary filmmakers. Crystal Moselle hit the jackpot with The Wolfpack, after spotting a band of long-haired youths striding down a New York street in Reservoir Dogs outfits. It turns out the brothers were leading a hermitic existence in a Lower East Side housing project—prevented by their Peruvian hippie father from going outside more than a few times a year, home-schooled by Mom, but permitted to watch countless movies.
There’s no way that a twisted backstory of dysfunction and paranoia couldn’t lurk behind this bizarre state of affairs, but Moselle respects her six articulate, soft-spoken subjects enough not to portray them solely as victims. When it comes to their circumstances and anxieties, they are, in a refreshing change from more exploitative films about oddballs, notably self-aware. Their love for The Dark Knight and other films comes across as playful and passionate, allowing them to create their own amusing homemade fantasy world (as in fact other movie-crazy kids have done in decades past).
Most of the documentary takes place in the family’s cramped subsidized apartment, but Moselle’s interviews push past potential distractions to create an intimate space with each brother. Further clues emerge concerning the parents, but this is a film less about gawking than about watching—the power of movies as escapism, and, quite literally, escape.