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Steal This Movie

1 rating: -3.0
A movie directed by Robert Greenwald

Abbie Hoffman (Vincent D'Onofrio), the dynamic, energetic political activist who, in the 60s, protested the war in Vietnam and the capitalist philosophies of companies that produced Napalm--most memorably by burning piles of $1 bills outside the New … see full wiki

Tags: Movies, Dramas
Cast: Donal Logue
Director: Robert Greenwald
Release Date: 2000
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about Steal This Movie

Steal this Movie: Why fictionalize a fascinating story?

  • Apr 20, 2001
Rating:
-3
Pros: it's about an interesting subject

Cons: bad flashback format, too many cuts in timeframe, terrible Boston accent

The Bottom Line: Read a book about Abbie or try to find a documentary about him.

I went to see "Steal this Movie" at Brandeis University, Abbie Hoffman's alma mater. I'm glad that I didn't pay for it.

Since I was at a special screening, the movie was prefaced by a speech by Bud Collins, a sports writer and Hoffman's tennis coach at Brandeis in 1959. His speech was full of humorous anecdotes about Abbie Hoffman, a radical activist in the '60s. The two didn't get along, since Abbie was not one to respect authority. But after the young activist graduated, the two maintained a correspondence and grew to respect each other.

The format of Collins' speech was much better than the movie itself. It proves that Hollywood can take a fascinating story, try to adapt it for the screen, and ruin it. I would have much rather learned about Hoffman's life through an "A and E" biography mini-series or something of the like. The main problem was that the movie tried to cover too much in too short a time, leaving the viewer feeling cheated. It was as if I had watched the cliff notes of a biography. It would have been better to focus more in depth on one or two parts of the movie, each of which were excellent on their own.

Theme one: The personal. Abbie Hoffman meets Anita, a young student hippie type, sweeps her off her feet, and they go on to a life of political activism and romance. Later, Abbie is forced to the "underground" after being stalked by the FBI. They have a young son named "america" and the struggle to retain some sort of family ensues. Abbie eventually meets a new girlfriend named Johanna. In a bizarre soap opera type setting, Anita, america, Johanna, and Abbie live together for awhile, but Abbie goes by a different name and america does not know that he is his father. This love story would make a very interesting movie and was not emphasized enough.

Theme two: The political activism and the trial of the Chicago Seven.
Abbie and his fellow activists employed ingenious tactics to organize and protest effectively. A very interesting scene is when Hoffman is talking to a young soldier who is about to go off to Vietnam to try to win him over to the anti-war side, while he and thousands of students surround the pentagon in an effort to "levitate" the building. Later, Hoffman's "Yippie" party goes to the Chicago democratic convention and nominates a pig. And a very entertaining event occurred when the yippies threw money from the balcony of the New York stock exchange and managed to make the traders crawl around for the money. These events should have been the main focus of the movie. The scene of the trial is extremely compelling and could have been its OWN movie.

The format of the movie interfered with the plot and events. A journalist is writing an article on Abbie's life in the underground and comes to interview Anita and Abbie himself. Most of the rest of the movie is done in flashbacks, which I find to be a tired technique.

The acting was fairly good, although I thought Janine Garafolo was an odd choice for Anita, since in all her other roles she seems angry and is certainly not the young idealist she plays in this film. Vincent D'Onofrio captures Abbie's enthusiasm and does a good job with the aging process. However, his accent is horrible. Is that the best Boston accent he could pull off? It sounds like he has a speech impediment. At times, I thought, "Ok, he seems to be getting closer," but he just never got it. People from other parts of the country might not mind as much.

Overall, the movie was enjoyable, but jumped around too much. It should have had a narrower focus. The soundtrack was good. If they make a documentary on Hoffman's life, I would love to see it.

Recommended:
No

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