STEAL ME, the latest feature film from writer-director Melissa Painter, premiered at the
Sundance Film Festival and was the opening night selection at the 2005 Brooklyn International Film
Festival. It’s a timeworn tale of a drifter who arrives and causes havoc – the spin is that this mysterious
stranger is a teenager.
Jake (newcomer Danny Alexander) has been hopping the rails in an effort to arrive in a small town
in Montana where he believes his prostitute mother is residing. (Paul Ryan's cinematography is one of
the movie's assets.) Once he arrives, he finds out that she’s long gone. Stranded and hungry, Jake
resorts to what he does best, stealing. While in the process of boosting a car radio, he’s caught by the
owner – another teenager named Tucker (Hunter Parrish). After the requisite fisticuffs, kindhearted
Tucker takes Jake to the local eatery and buys him a hamburger. Then, he brings Jake back to his
home, where Tucker’s equally good-natured parents (John Terry and Cara Seymour) agree to let him
sleep in the barn. Tucker’s dad thinks the kids just misunderstood and even gets him a part-time job
in the local train yards. Mom is a little more suspicious. But her hot-to-trot neighbor Grace (Toby
Posner), a new mom, lays eyes on the newcomer and entertains inappropriate fantasies.
Soon Jake has infiltrated the family, assisting Tucker in his romance of a local teen temptress
Lily Rose (Paz de la Huerte), in a scene that is meant to pay homage to Truffaut’s JULES ET JIM
but doesn’t quite make the cut. Tucker soon becomes suspicious of Jake – recognizing a Tom
Ripleyesque quality. He’s pretty certain Jake is out to take over his life.
Painter appears to be trying to make a connection between Jake’s need to find his lost mother
and his burgeoning desire to bed almost any female in sight. He hooks up with Grace, encourages
Lily Rose to respond to Tucker’s overtures, and tries to worm his way into Tucker’s mom’s heart.
The acting in the film, like its story, is uneven. Alexander in his first screen role isn’t terribly
convincing as an all purpose seducer. He lacks a dangerous edge and comes across more as a puppy
dog in need of petting. Parrish is adequate as the virginal Tucker, while de la Huerte is saddled with
a cliché role. While her character could be considered immoral – she is committing statutory rape, after
all – Toby Poser injects an earthy spark as Grace. The best work in the film, though, is offered by Cara
Seymour, an astonishing actress who deserves better roles. Seymour has done amazing work in the
past, whether as the prostitute in AMERICAN PSYCHO or as the screenwriter’s sort of girlfriend in
ADAPTATION, and her role in this film allows her to display her considerable gifts.
While the overall film does not quite add up, STEAL ME was still among the better films I saw
at the Brooklyn Film Festival.
MPAA Rating: NONE
Running time: 95 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.