American Woman : Fri | February 7 | 6:00 PM | Odeon
atmospheric + thrilling + elegant
Heiress Patty Hearst—the granddaughter of wealthy newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst—made international headlines when, following her kidnapping by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, she reportedly adopted the beliefs of her captors. Semi Chellas’ (Mad Men, The Romanoffs) directorial debut is told from the point of view of a former radical named Jenny (Hong Chau) who is recruited to look after a group of fugitives, with Hearst (Sarah Gadon) among them, in a nuanced dramatization of what happened behind closed doors. Two idealists who find themselves at divergent but mirroring crossroads, Jenny and Patty are inevitably drawn together as the stakes get higher and pressures mount among their accompanying radicals on the run.
Part thriller and part character drama, American Woman is driven by its magnetic lead performances from Chau and Gadon, with an ace supporting turn from Ellen Burstyn as Miss Dolly, a wealthy old woman whose ignorance helps motivate Jenny into action. Chellas, in adapting Susan Choi’s fictionalized novel about Patty Hearst and Wendy Yoshimura, adeptly captures a precise political moment in the United States in the mid-70s, when revolutionary thought and plights took confused turns and warred with themselves, ultimately seeming to fizzle away altogether. At its core, American Woman is a film about two human beings adrift who find in one another however briefly, something to anchor them to a present moment. – Adam Cook
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