Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime original movie, Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story!
The most obvious answer is because it was on Lifetime. As y’all know, I love Lifetime movies, especially when they’re based on a “true” crime story.
As well, I am among those who, since 2013, have been fascinated and frustrated with the twists and turns of the Hannah Anderson kidnapping case. Hannah was a 16 year-old cheerleader who was kidnapped by a family friend, James DiMaggio. DiMaggio also murdered Hannah’s mother and younger brother. When Hannah was finally found and rescued by the FBI, many questioned whether Hannah had been DiMaggio’s victim or his accomplice.
I can still remember when questions were first raised over Hannah’s role in DiMaggio’s crimes. It seemed like everyone had an opinion. There were some days when I felt like Hannah had to be innocent and then there were other days when I thought the exact opposite. Nearly two years later and I still go back-and-forth. That’s the main reason I wanted to see Kidnapped. I wanted to see whether this would be the film that would finally convince me one way or the other.
What Was It About?
The film begins with the FBI rescuing 16 year-old kidnapping victim Hannah Anderson (Jessica Amlee) and killing her kidnapper, Jim DiMaggio (Scott Patterson). A traumatized Hannah returns home but soon discovers that some, in the media, are claiming that she collaborated with Jim to murder her mother and younger brother. Hannah goes on a talk show to tell her side of the story.
Scott Patterson and Jessica Amlee gave good performances as Jim and Hannah. Amlee was sympathetic throughout. Patterson was properly creepy.
What Did Not Work?
The main reason that this case captured everyone’s imagination was because of the ambiguity of it all. Nobody was quite sure how they felt about Hannah Anderson and, especially in the early days of the investigation, Hannah’s behavior gave a lot of people reason to feel uneasy about her story. And while that’s probably not fair (who knows how any of us would act in a similar situation), it’s still the reason why people continue to debate the specifics of the Hannah Anderson kidnapping to this day.
Unfortunately, none of that ambiguity was present in the film. The only voice heard is Hannah’s and those who had doubts about Hannah’s story are dismissed as being trolls and bullies. In the process, a multi-layered mystery is reduced to just being the latest anti-bullying PSA. Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story had all the elements necessary to be a truly intriguing and potentially unsettling film but, in the end, it’s just a standard Lifetime movie.
“Oh my God! Just like me!” Moments
Considering the subject matter, I’d just as soon say that there were no “Oh my God! Just like me!” moments. However, that’s not quite true. There were times that I cringed at the flashbacks to Hannah and Jim’s relationship before the kidnapping, because, when I was that age, I did have some similar relationships that, in retrospect, were more than a little bit creepy. In particular, the scene where 40ish Jim says that he wishes he could “date” the 16 year-old Hannah brought back some less than fond memories.
Never underestimate the power of narrative ambiguity.