- Last Updated: 11:22 AM, July 9, 2012
- Posted: 10:34 PM, July 8, 2012
Tonight at 9 on HBO
The economic recession began in 2008, and — judging from a new HBO special, “Hard Times: Lost on Long Island,” premiering tonight — it is not like any other downturn before it.
While the struggling economy has affected people everywhere, it’s Long Island — birthplace of Levittown, the country’s first planned suburb — that the filmmakers Mark Levin and Daphne Pinkerson chose to stand in for the uniqueness of this collapse.
The families on Long Island who appear in “Hard Times” are educated, established professionals — people who were not supposed to be out of a job for four years.
Among those profiled are a corporate trainer, a publicist, a teacher and a Wall Street office manager.
Their lives are filled with stress, fear, anger, embarrassment, self-doubt and the feeling of emotional alienation that separate them from friends and family who have jobs.
“Living with cancer was easier than being unemployed,” says Anne Strauss, whose husband, Mel, beat brain cancer in 2000.
Then there’s corporate trainer Alan Fromm, who survived both bombings of the World Trade Center and the Long Island Railroad massacre. He talks about the failed job leads and false hopes, the fear of losing his house and his growing religious faith — which still doesn’t make a prospective employer return his phone call. The Hartsteins — she’s a teacher, he’s a chiropractor — talk about living a “fairy-tale” life until she lost her job and his business went south, forcing them to declare bankruptcy and put their dream home at risk.
Like them, Nick and Regina Puccio can’t pay their mortgage (he lost his Wall Street job in the ’08 meltdown), and live month to month wondering if they’ll lose their house.
Levin and Pinkerson could have easily turned “Hard Times” into a ideological screed on a hot-button political issue.
But to their credit, they didn’t. They made instead a film about the toll this drama of our times takes on everyday people.