Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst
Opens Fri Jan 28
We may never know what Patty Hearst was thinking. Kidnapped by the militant Symbionese Liberation Army at the age of 19, the heiress eventually joined her captors in a bizarre revolution/crime spree. While Guerrilla documents those events, the SLA's version of what went on with the actual kidnap is frustratingly missing, leaving out any testimony from the two living members specifically involved.
Notably, Hearst herself is also not interviewed, thus leaving the shroud of mystery fully in place. While Hearst sent taped recordings to her parents--wherein she claimed loyalty to the SLA, insisted that she had made the "choice" to remain with them, and adopted the alias "Tania" before dumping her fiancée for her co-revolutionary, "Cujo"--Hearst changed her story after her arrest, claiming she'd been forced to commit the crimes and raped by Cujo.
While Heart's account may very well be the truthful version of events, Guerrilla ain't buying it. The film deserves criticism for glossing over her alleged mistreatment (it ignores the rape accusations altogether), and disregarding Hearst's diminished physical and mental condition at the time of her arrest in 1975.
Instead, Guerilla focuses on the ideals and actions of the SLA. At first, they're a relatable group, but then their philosophy takes a spectacularly under-explained cognitive leap into near jibberish. Tracking the SLA's formation and actions, Guerrilla splices scenes from Disney's Robin Hood into the film to illustrate the childlike aims of the SLA and explain their vague "take from the rich and give to the poor" utopic vision. Hearst, meanwhile, is portrayed as spoiled--from her incredible wealth to the juxtaposition of Hearst as a talk show guest while her former comrades serve hard time.
But despite its flaws and biases, Guerrilla somehow remains a riveting documentary. Gifted with a sensationally true story, it's impossible not to become as absorbed in it as our parents must've been when they watched it on TV.