TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘American Woman’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Film Festivals, Movies, Theatrical, TIFF 2019 by - September 07, 2019
TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘American Woman’

American Woman is a very Canadian film about a very American event, namely the Patty Hearst kidnapping saga. It stars Sarah Gadon, has a very rural-Ontario-looking version of upstate New York, and feels sanitized within an inch of its life.

Based on the novel by Susan Choi, American Woman changes the names of all the principal parties to tell a thinly fictionalized account of what happened when a high-profile rich girl was taken and indoctrinated into a radical ‘70s liberation group. Recent breakout star Hong Chau (Downsizing) plays Jenny, an activist who’s been in hiding since being involved in various bombing plots. She’s eventually found by an admiring publisher, who wants to pay her to keep a group of revolutionaries off the grid while they write their book. This group consists of a tumultuous and annoying couple, Juan (John Gallagher Jr.) and Yvonne (Lola Kirke), and the Hearst stand-in, Pauline (Sarah Gadon).

The central question to the film is whether Pauline, like Hearst, was being kept against her will or if she was truly into the cause. But the movie ultimately gives us no reason to care, giving us barely-sketched characters and banal dialogue that wouldn’t pass muster on a CBC movie of the week (okay, maybe it would). When the relationship between Jenny and Pauline suddenly becomes more intimate in the third act, it’s so out of nowhere to be almost laughable.

Imagine paying up to $83 to attend the Gala premiere of this. Ummm, no.

This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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