Steal This Movie (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|Some reviewers gave this film a decent review, and I'll be damned if I can understand why. Must have been some kind of a nostalgia for the sights and sounds of the 60's.|
|To tell you the truth, it's not a movie at all. It's a television docudrama, except it is one-sided. There is no cinematic hook of any kind. It simply recalls Abbie Hoffman's life from about age 20 until his suicide. The events are told more or less in chronological order, except for an overlay of a reporter interviewing Abbie's wife, Anita Hoffman. Any 90 minute TV show would have done the same with about the same degree of depth and less partiality. It tries to cover nearly his entire life, so it only has time for a minute or two on each event, and no time at all to develop supporting characters.||
|Well, actually, they did try two cinematic
elements, with no success. In addition to the Citizen
Kane thing with story being told to the the reporter,
they had the elderly 50ish Abbie, in his last hurrah,
address a courtroom with one of those Mr Smith goes to
Washington speeches. If the real Abbie had been in the
audience, he would have been chanting "Bullshit,
There could be several good films here. The Chicago Seven trial would make a great film. Abbie's life underground would also. The government counter-activism activities would be good. The march on the pentagon might do it. Or Nixon's enemies list. But when you give each of these things a minute in the sunshine, there's no chance to examine the issues.
There are some other weaknesses, especially in the casting. Abbie Hoffman was different from the other student radicals in that he was a normal guy. He loved sports, got laid, had a great sense of humor. Vincent D'Onofrio is perhaps the most abnormal guy of the available actors in that age group, and he lends that psychotic, strident, belligerent, lumbering presence to every moment he is on screen. Abbie had a lot of charm, even charisma. D'Onofrio is .... well, clumsy and creepy.
Moreover, Abbie was funny. Is there any actor in the world less funny than Vince D'Onofrio? Maybe Jeremy Irons - yeah, he would have made a good Abbie. How did they miss him?
The epoch portrayed in the movie was a glorious time in many ways, one of the last moments for real power to the little people standing against the machine. After all, these nutburgers drove two presidents out in disgrace, and spearheaded a cultural revolution. But this movie trivializes the era and the people in it on both sides, turning it into shrill didacticism or reducing it to symbols, with no genuine chance to educate the young about the point it wishes to make.
So I'll make the point, if I can. I'm paraphrasing the great Hunter Thompson here, because I can't find the quote and I can't match his eloquence. In summarizing the passing of "the movement", Thompson said - looking back on it, George McGovern wasn't a great man and may not have made a great president. But he was one of the few men in power in America who understood what this nation might have become, what a monument it might have been to the best instincts of man, had it not fallen into the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.
You could say something similar about Abbie.
not have been a great man, but his personality opened up
a conduit between the redical left and those of us in
mainstream America. Through Abbie, a funny and
charismatic guy, we were able to see the theatrical and
humorous lessons that no amount of screeching could have
communicated to us. The other guys could have shouted
"stop the war, you're killing kids" in their
strident voices until the end of time, and I never would
have heard them. In fact, the louder they shouted, the
more I felt like disagreeing with them. But when he ran
the pig for president, or dropped the money in the stock
exchange, or tried to levitate the pentagon, or wore the
judge's robes in the courtroom, he provoked responses
which brought out the true nature of his enemies, and
that made the point in a way I could clearly understand.
And though he he could be offensive and obnoxious and paranoid, and made a lot of mistakes, Abbie's heart was basically in the right places. Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. Equality. Though it was made and advised by people who knew and loved Abbie, the movie didn't really have a clue about what made his political theater so effective.
Oh, well, what can you expect? The director is the same guy who did Xanadu.
One thing good about this movie. I don't have to worry about returning it to Blockbuster. In honor of Abbie, I stole it.
Return to the Movie House home page