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KIDNAPPED: THE HANNAH ANDERSON STORY is a gripping, well made thriller about the rescue of the San Diego teenager that captivated Southern California a couple of years back.
The film actually begins with Hannah's rescue and then dives into the sad and tragic way that her behavior following the ordeal was misinterpreted by a skeptical press. As Hannah herself says in the film, "If I smile it means I don't miss them, if I don't smile then I'm a bitch." We see how a girl in emotional distress is treated like a tabloid sensation and her attempts to move on are hampered by endless harassment.
Finally, the stress sends Hannah on a quest to clear her name, which she does on the Today Show. I remember watching this interview when it first aired and a lot of it seems to be presented identically as Hannah finally gets a chance to tell her side of the story. What then unfolds is not the murderous schemes of the so-called Lakeside Lolita, but the tragic story of the victimization of a teen-aged girl at the hands of so-called family friend Jim DiMaggio. We see his creepy crush on her (explained in Hannah's own words, taken from actual interviews and chat room sessions) and how that leads to the murder of her mother and brother.
The final third of the film is the chase and rescue as the FBI closes in on DiMaggio, who has taken Hannah to an Idaho forest with hopes of starting a new life.
Terrific performances by Scott Patterson (as DiMaggio) and Jessica Amlee (as Hannah) go a long way to bring an emotional core to what could have been a stock villain/victim dynamic. Brian McNamara does a great job as a dad dealing with both the end of his marriage and the death of his wife and son. There are a few solid thriller moments along the way (a sequence set in a Nevada truck stop is a stand out), but mostly this is the story about a girl trying to survive both the kidnapping and the turmoil that followed.
Much has been made of Anderson's negative reaction to the film, but it is difficult to imagine a more sympathetic portrayal. Aside from DiMaggio, it is the media and the outspoken critics of Anderson (including DiMaggio's sister) that are the villains of the piece.
It would have been nice to spend more time in the wilderness with DiMaggio and Anderson. These sequences are as frustratingly short on details in the film as they were in the initial media coverage... which doesn't help those who believe something more happened between the two. The film doesn't stray too far from Anderson's own accounts of the incidents, which feels like a missed opportunity to explore other dimensions of the case. It also holds back from some of the more brutal aspects of the case (all the murders take place off screen or out of focus). But then again... it is a Lifetime movie.
Still, a few flaws aside, this is a very good movie that will likely hold the viewers attention... and just disturbing enough to linger in the mind for a few days after.
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