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Steal Me

A classic case of overreaching, "Steal Me" boasts unorthodox camera angles, dramatic shifts in its palette and a generally adventurous visual style. What it lacks is believable dialogue, credible relationships and a serious foundation for its overripe psychology. Theatrical prospects are questionable, cable and homevid more promising.

A classic case of overreaching, “Steal Me” boasts unorthodox camera angles, dramatic shifts in its palette and a generally adventurous visual style. What it lacks is believable dialogue, credible relationships and a serious foundation for its overripe psychology. Theatrical prospects are questionable, cable and homevid more promising.

It’s difficult to say whether the performances are good or bad, since what the actors are given to say so often resembles the diary entries of overheated adolescents, or the madder mutterings of Dr. Phil.

But the casting itself is a problem. A story about an adolescent Lothario who poses a sexual threat to every woman he meets requires an adolescent with palpable erotic appeal. In Danny Alexander, who plays Jake — troubled 15-year-old “lifelong” thief and homeless vagrant — director Melissa Painter presents a reasonably attractive young man with a pubescent gait and a set of Don Juan-isms that would be laughed at by most high school girls, never mind the type of mature woman with whom he interacts in the film.

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But then everyone in “Steal Me” seems to be in such an inexplicable state of arousal that anything’s possible, if not necessarily plausible.

After an electrifying opening which, unfortunately, augurs some other movie entirely, pic kicks into gear as Jake is caught stealing a car radio belonging to corn-fed, fresh-faced Tucker (Hunter Parrish). Tucker takes the young thief home to meet his parents who offer quite different receptions: Dad (John Terry) wants to help the boy, but wants honesty from him, too. Mom (Cara Seymour, who seems to specialize in playing women who look like they just rolled out of bed after a bad night’s sleep) reacts in a more complex way — Jake arouses her maternal, sexual and protective instincts. His reaction to her is just as ornate.

Everything’s a bit rococo in “Steal Me”: There’s Jake’s search for his prostitute mother; Jake’s efforts to match up Tucker with local beauty Lily Rose (Paz de la Huerta), whose character also seems to harbor an appetite for Jake; a master-thief subplot (which is laughable since Jake gets caught every time he tries to get away with anything), and Jake’s affair with single mother Grace(Toby Poser, who brings some saucy life to the party).

Sexual attraction being subjective, perhaps Alexander really is a heartthrob, and Seymour the type of woman that would set an adolescent’s heart ablaze. More likely, though, the various rules of attraction in “Steal Me” need further explanation to anyone over 15.

Steal Me

  • Production: A Cineville presentation of a Picture Entertainment production. Produced by Carl Colpaert, Lee Caplin, Lisa Larivee. Co-producer, Audrey Hall. Directed, written by Melissa Painter.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Paul Ryan; editor, Melissa Bretherton; consulting editor, Brent White; music, Jim Thomas; production designer, Andrea Soeiro; costume designer, Courtney Hess; associate producers, Ryan, Carla Corwin. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (American Spectrum), Jan. 23, 2005. Running time: 95 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Cara Seymour, Danny Alexander, Hunter Parrish, Paz de la Huerta, John Terry, Tobey Poser, Chelsea Carlson.
  • Music By: