STEAL THIS MOVIE! tells the story of the famous Chicago 7 radical, Abbie
Hoffman. (The title is guaranteed to strike the same terror in the
hearts of video store owners when the movie makes its way to video that
Abbie Hoffman's book, "Steal This Book!" did years ago for bookstore
owners.) The unabashedly one-sided movie by director Robert Greenwald,
a friend of Abbie and Anita Hoffman, is a lucid and intriguing tale of
perhaps the most famous of the Vietnam War protestors. Freed from any
pretense of objectivity, the fast-paced movie creates a flattering story
as the late Abbie Hoffman might himself have told.
As the movie starts in 1977, a highly paranoid Abbie has been hiding
underground for 5 years. "5 years, 17 cities, 10 jobs," is how Abbie
describes it to David Glenn (Alan Van Sprang), a reporter who promises
to tell his story without revealing his whereabouts. We quickly
flashback to Abbie's heydays, when the world was his stage and his
outrageous behavior was his not-so-secret weapon to popularize his
causes. "Dull is deadly", Abbie explains as the rationale for his
Vincent D'Onofrio turns in an energetic and endearing performance as the
charismatic, smart Abbie Hoffman, a self-described "long-haired,
revolutionary freak." We witness Abbie enjoying life, family and sex.
Janeane Garofalo, as his wife Anita, and Jeanne Tripplehorn, as his
lover and friend Johanna Lawrenson, play the women in his life.
The strong supporting cast includes Donal Logue, who appears in every
other movie this summer and in various sizes from his Pillsbury Dough
Boy in THE TAO OF STEVE to his more modest size this time as Stew
Albert, Abbie's best friend. Kevin Pollak does a nice turn as Gerry
Lefcourt, Abbie's savvy and tolerant lawyer. Representing Abbie, who
turned his most famous trial into a ludicrous circus, was a supreme
challenge for a lawyer.
Bruce Graham's bright script, based on books by Abbie and Anita Hoffman
and by Marty Jezer, is funny and insightful. "If you don't like Abbie's
mood, wait a minute," Anita tells Johanna about Abbie, who was
eventually diagnosed as a manic-depressive.
Ever the philosopher, Abbie's mouth is a shotgun of ideas. "The problem
with liberals is that they see all sides to every argument, which leads
to paralysis," he claims. "You aren't fighting the [Vietnam] war to
save democracy," he says. "You're fighting this war to save Wall
The movie does a marvelous job of authentically capturing the look and
mood of the period. And the old anti-war songs really rock.
The movie dichotomizes the people in Abbie's life into either friends or
enemies, with the former being the world's good guys and the latter
being the bad. The police, especially the FBI, are uniformly depicted
as little better than the Gestapo. Too often, films with strong
political agendas present us with false alternatives rather than
admitting that they are really only telling one side of the argument.
STEAL THIS MOVIE! works precisely because it stays strictly true to its
opinions. You may not subscribe to them, but you'll understand them
much better after seeing the picture. And you'll gain fascinating
insights into the life of someone you may have never even cared about
before. But, most of all, you'll have a high old time while reliving
one of our nation's more turbulent eras.
STEAL THIS MOVIE! runs a lively 1:41. It is rated R for language, drug
content and some nudity and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes