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#TIFF19 Review: American Woman (Gala Presentations)

September 6, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Jenny (Hong Chau) is a young political activist in the 1970s who is laying low after bombing a draft office to protest the Vietnam War, when she forms a bond with a young heiress named Pauline (Sarah Gadon), who has gotten involved with a violent cult run by Juan (John Gallagher Jr.) that is responsible for a string of highly publicized bank robberies. Jenny is recruited to stay at their safe house in the middle of the woods, so that she can help them write a manifesto to be distributed to the media outlining the ideologies behind their crimes. While Pauline claims she is there by choice, Jenny starts to suspect that she is brainwashed and being held hostage.

Loosely inspired by the Patty Hearst case, and based on a book by Susan Choi, American Woman is the feature directorial debut of writer Semi Chellas, who cut her teeth on the TV shows Mad Men and The Romanoffs. The film features decent performances from Chau, Gadon and Gallagher Jr., and there are some interesting moments, including several interactions with a young grocery store clerk (Richard Walters) to make it worthwhile. But at just over eighty minutes long, American Woman feels short, and aspects of it seem underdeveloped. The film becomes somewhat slack when it should ratcheting up suspense, and it ends up feeling more like a TV movie.

Hong Chau in American Woman

Public Screenings:

Thursday, September 12th – 6:30 PM at Roy Thomson Hall

Thursday, September 12th – 8:00 PM at Elgin Theatre

Saturday, September 14th – 7:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

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