American Woman Parent Guide
A barely fictionalized account of the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, this is better considered a biopic than an original story.
Parent Movie Review
Jenny (Hong Chau) has been underground for ages, hiding from the authorities after a police raid on the extremist group to which she belongs. At the encouragement of a former associate, she moves into a remote farmhouse with three other members: Juan (John Gallagher Jr.), an arrogant and unpleasant individual; Yvonne (Lola Kirk), Juan’s girlfriend and revolutionary comrade; and Pauline (Sarah Gadon), the abducted heiress who has allegedly been brainwashed into joining the group. All are on the run from the police and are supposed to be writing a book to be distributed across America to raise funds and awareness of their cause. It is up to Jenny to ensure that these three both write the book and avoid detection by law enforcement.
This film is a fictional interpretation of the kidnapping of Party Hearst, granddaughter of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, by an extremist revolutionary group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army. Her subsequent confinement, indoctrination, and involvement in crimes committed by the group became a massive news story, with many political figures debating her innocence, a debate which only intensified following her arrest and conviction on charges related to her activities with the SLA. This film focuses on the period before her arrest, when Hearst (represented by Pauline) was living in a remote Pennsylvania cabin with Symbionese Liberation Army founders Bill and Emily Harris (represented by Juan and Yvette) and aided by Wendy Yoshimura, as portrayed as Jenny.
The film presents an interesting dynamic between members of the group. Juan’s braggadocio and belligerence are brought to the fore, and contrast well with Jenny’s good sense. The movie doesn’t get too involved in the question of Patty - I mean, Pauline’s guilt or innocence. Hearst was pardoned by President Clinton, but it might have been interesting to see the film spend a little more time on the issue which was so central at the trial.
Parental concerns with American Woman will center on profanity, almost all of which is spoken by Juan. Foul-mouthed, cruel, and creepy, Juan is hardly portrayed as a positive influence, and his language reflects that. Characters are also frequently seen smoking cigarettes, which isn’t exactly advisable, but is accurate for the time. Finally, characters are involved in numerous criminal acts, but again, this is not portrayed favorably - everyone involved is either arrested or killed by the police, which is hardly an endorsement.
As creative historical fiction goes, I think this sticks a little too closely to established history. It seems to me that character names were changed only for the purpose of avoiding a lawsuit from the survivors, and this film is probably better viewed as a biopic or historical drama. Even then, the excellent performances from the main cast don’t quite redeem the slow pacing. But hey, it beats being kidnapped and locked in a closet while some wannabe revolutionary tries to recruit you.Directed by Semi Chellas. Starring Hong Chau, Ellen Burstyn, and David Cubitt. Running time: 85 minutes. Theatrical release September 12, 2019. Updated September 25, 2019
Rating & Content Info
Why is American Woman rated Not Rated? American Woman is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: An person is slapped across the face. There are references to bombings. A woman is shown being abducted. An individual is shown with some blood on them after committing a murder. A mouse is caught in a trap and killed by being thrown against the wall.
Sexual Content: There is no sexual content seen or described. One character is seen wearing underwear briefly. There is one crude reference to male genitalia.
Profanity: There are 12 uses of extreme profanity and 8 uses of mild and moderate profanity. There are several racial slurs.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Individuals are shown smoking cigarettes. People are shown drinking in a bar, but not to excess.
Page last updated September 25, 2019
American Woman Parents' Guide
Jenny refused to give incriminating testimony against Pauline. Do you think this was a good idea? Does Pauline deserve that protection? What are the consequences for Jenny?
The extremists Jenny is involved with are opposed to war, yet they use violence to achieve their ends. How do they justify this contradiction? Is it really a contradiction, or are their aims different enough to justify a different definition?
Juan treats the other members of the group poorly. Why do you think he does this? Is he attempting to prove something, or is he just an unpleasant person? Juan’s behavior is quite patriarchal - odd for an extremist group opposed to most forms of inequality. Why do you think that is?
Related home video titles:
All the Money In The World shows another potential downside of being an heir to a massive fortune: What if the rich relative doesn’t feel like paying the ransom?
Citizen Kane is a fictionalized retelling of William Randolph Hearst’s life, directed by and starring Orson Welles. It is widely regarded as one of the best films ever made.