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Five years after Yippie founder Abbie Hoffman goes underground to avoid a drug-related prison sentence, he contacts a reporter to get out the story of the FBI's covert spying, harassment and inciting of violence they then blame on the Left. The skeptical reporter interviews Anita, Hoffman's wife, a single mom on welfare in New York City; Hoffman's attorney, Gerry Lefcourt; and others. As they talk, we see Hoffman's career in flashbacks, from early civil rights organizing through the trial of the Chicago Eight. While underground, as mental illness takes its toll, he meets Johanna Lawrenson, and an odd family develops: Abbie, Anita, their son, and Johanna. Will vindication ever arrive? Written by
'Steal This Movie' is a well-thought, well-written well-acted, well-made dramatization of the life of left-wing activist Abbie Hoffman, probably the most famous of the Chicago Seven. (The title is a play on the title of Hoffman's autobiography, 'Steal This Book', though it certainly doesn't have the poignancy of that title.) 'Steal This Movie' made some bold casting choices. The lead role was given to Vincent D'Onofrio: not an obvious choice, because Vincent looks very little like Abbie, which caused many die-hard history aficionados to bash the decision. However, Vincent fills the role wonderful, brilliantly, expressing all the conflicting sides of Hoffman's personality, his sense of humor, his dead seriousness, strict political consciousness, bi-polar disorder, having to live in hiding and away from his wife and son. He makes the character come alive much more than someone else could have by simply looking and talking like him. Abbie's wife Anita is played wonderfully by SNL's Janeane Garofalo, accomplished comedian but not so as a dramatic actress.
Though it doesn't have that much cinematic value by its own right, 'Steal This Movie' does a fantastic job of getting through both the spirit of the time and the greatness and difficulties of Hoffman's activities and his character - a great and fascinating person whose impact has long been overlooked. It's also a wonderful document of an important period that is practically ignored (relatively, of course). For those interested in the late 60s, in the hippie movements, Black Panthers and other left wing political movements of the time, and of course in Hoffman himself - it's invaluable, on top of being both touching and entertaining. A good watch.
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