Steal This Movie
This film charts the rise and fall of Abbie Hoffman – activist, radical, fugitive – dramatizing the history, hijinx, music, and madness that made his personal and political journey a quintessential part of the ‘60s and ‘70s. In 1968, together with his wife, Anita, and a small circle of friends, he founded Yippie! – a band of revolutionaries created to protest the Vietnam War at the Democratic National Convention. Amid the riots, the ensuing trial, and his enshrinement as a counter-couture hero, few knew the price he paid. Hounded by the FBI, Hoffman was forced underground. He surfaced again in the late ‘70s, as “Barry Freed” an environmental activist in upstate New York, still unable to resist a radical cause.
Years ago I saw a film entitled “Das Boot,” about the inhabitants of a German U-boat during WWII. All of a sudden, I found myself hoping they would escape detection from the “enemy.” I realized then the power of this medium. A filmmaker can easily control the viewer’s perspective. And the audience, not always aware of the facts, leaves the theater thinking they know the whole truth, and nothing but the true. I suspect this is the case of “Steal This Movie.” Although the film paints him as a manic depressive with mood swings, it is very clear that he and his following were the white knights who got us out of Vietnam, gave women and blacks social reform, and proved who killed Cock Robin. With his guerrilla theater, Hoffman saw himself as a cultural revolutionary, for he rightly believed that to change society, first there had to be a cultural war. He told the people that our involvement in the Vietnam War was not to save democracy, but to save the economy. To this day, it is difficult to believe that our leaders could be so calculating, and downright evil, as to muster such a war, for such a reason. But lately, political cynicism has crept into the minds of even the most conservative and patriotic of citizens. Whether this film’s depiction of Hoffman and the other “Chicago Seven” is an accurate portrayal, the fact remains that while attempting to reform our country’s social mores, the hippies and yippies were embracing anything that rebelled against the status quo. The film shows that many of these people weren’t simply rebelling against the hypocrisy of complacent Americans. They just didn’t like the lifestyle. They were in rebellion, not just of civic injustice, but of common morality. Consequently, whatever good they accomplished is offset by the dismissal of social standards. As for the production’s quality, both D’Onofrio and Garofalo are outstanding. The terse script, and fluid direction keep you glued to the screen. What I most appreciated about this film was the fact that it was about something. Whether you agreed with Hoffman’s politics, the film is a cautionary tale. We must be involved with those who govern our country, not just leave it to the other guy. And we must beware of over-indulgence and a Me-ism lifestyle. Here we see that Hoffman paid a price, not just for his litigious battle for political expression, but for rebelling against his own body. Think of the beneficial message he would have left behind had he not been an adulterer, a fornicator, or a drug abuser. Unfortunately, I am unable to recommend it for family viewing due to the sexual situations and the objectionable language, which includes 35 uses of one particular obscenity, alone.