Two American Families is Hoop Dreams, minus the basketball. Frontline followed two blue-collar families living in Milwaukee as they fought over the years to stay in their homes and put food on their tables. One of the couples worked opposite night and day shifts for years, barely seeing each other or their children and growing further apart. The other couple lived paycheck to paycheck and clung to their faith, praying that one day they will dig out of debt and not even daring to dream of retirement.
Documentaries like Two American Families are painful to watch, mainly because I know how these stories end in the real world, and yet I keep hoping that their lives will end differently. Both couples worked incredibly hard to provide for their families and give their children the traditional ideal of the American dream. The problem is that getting the house, the kid's college fund, and enough savings to retire on is not as simple as hard work and determination. They go through a variety of careers from factory work to house repairs and real estate, looking for something stable, and it is heartbreaking to see what they want and what they have worked for remaining just out of their reach.
Two American Families doesn't try to say anything that hasn't already been said about poverty and minimum wage existence in documentaries like Hoop Dreams or books like Nickel and Dimed. In a culture obsessed with wealth and the American dream, however, these stories are necessary reminders that unless significant changes are made, the coveted American dream will be as unobtainable to millions of Americans as a pet unicorn.
There are no special features on the DVD release.
"Frontline: Two American Families" is on sale September 17, 2013 and is not rated. Documentary. Directed by Bill Moyers. Written by Kathleen Hughes, Bill Moyers. Starring Bill Moyers.