by

Stew Albert




 

Steal This Movie, a bio-pic of Abbie Hoffman's life and times is scheduled for general public release in August, 2000. The movie's distributor is Lions Gate, who also distributed Gods and Monsters.

Dailies of the film looked promising but that was when Greenwald Productions was shooting the flick. How would it all be edited? And would its amazingly progressive political perspective be sacrificed to action and excitement? Or might the film wind up dreary and polemical? And how much imagination and skill would go into persuasively blending stock footage newsreels with the rest of the movie?

We knew that the actors had a done a splendid job with a fine script but would it all be lost on the cutting room floor? Good news. We've seen the film. And it all works. Robert Greenwald does a great job as director and overseer -- even with the stock footage. Steal This Movie has great politics and it does make you laugh a lot and cry a little. It's the first work out of Hollywood that accurately and sympathetically catches the spirit of 60's rebellion.

Yippie is being called back for an encore. And its all here, friends. The wild surrealism of throwing money at millionaire stock brokers, running a pig for President, levitating the Pentagon, the free store, two Chicago 8 defendants dressing up in judge's robes and so much more. The eccentric Yippie disputes and divisions also appear. Our battles over ugly vs pretty pigs, and small politically motivated performance art pieces against massive militant demonstrations are accurately presented.

And then there is Vincent D'Onofrio's many-sided portrayal of Abbie Hoffman. It's such a difficult task. Vincent's isn't the first screen Abbie. The Yippie has been done several times, and not always with his real name. Remember Howie Eppis? or Dennis Hopper in Flashback? or the silly Abbie in Forrest Gump? They all caught aspects of the Yippie magician and stirred some memories among his old friends and at least one former wife. But they were all superficial, if pleasant journeys through a one-dimensional looking glass.

D'Onfrio does Abbie in three -dimensions plus. He evokes the original Abbie, as a trickster socialist and psychedelic outlaw, the sadly transformed Hoffman as busted coke dealer, fugitive and manic-depressive, the redeemed Abbie as ecology activist and mature teacher of a new generation. Vincent changes physically through his different incarnations of the Yippie leader; he ages, his handsome face hardens and then mellows with knowing kindness.

And Janeane Garafolo offers an understanding of Anita as smart, shy, kind and beautiful. A person who could fall head over heels for Abbie and still step back into the world of objective judgments and assess his faults and weaknesses.

Donald Logue and Ingrid Venninger make me and Judy likable, fun-loving characters who finally have to set some limits n what they can and cannot do for a dangerously over-reaching Abbie.

It's impossible to be objective in assessing an actor when he's playing you! But old friend David Peel (the creator of punk rock) was present at the same Steal This Movie showing that we were and after it ended he came over and said: Hey Stew, that guy was just like you used to be. Nuff said.

The film has a great cast, Kevin Corrigan gives speeches that catch Jerry Rubin's fiery passion and anger.
Kevin Pollock gets Gerry Leftcourt's irony and commitment. And Troy Garrity, son of Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, plays a passionate young Tom with distinction.

Of course many of us have our own private 60's. And so fault with this film will surely be found. It is accurate in essence and spirit and takes much artistic license with details. I would urge the viewer to remember this is a Hollywood movie and not a work of scholarship. It is a film about myth makers and quite naturally portrays them with imaginative and generous vision. It is the first feature film to portray our times with unbridled sympathy and do it in a manner true to its hero.

Steal This Movie is a very entertaining and inspiringly directed creation. It's Abbie, and its Yippies are larger than life, and that's just the way Abbie Hoffman would have wanted it.

 

Stew


Theatre photo by Leslie Kay - Portland, Oregon





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