Jake (Danny Alexander), a wayward 15-year-old with a severe mother fixation, blows into Montana from destinations unknown, possibly The School of Existential Pretense for Teenage Blowhards, founded by Wes Bentley and a plastic bag in American Beauty and given a sinister rep by Ryan Gosling’s mercy-killer in The United States of Leland. The boy loves to steal things but what he really wants is someone to steal him, not that he’d ever tell anyone that—‘cause, you know, teenagers are cool like that. Jake ends up in the home of blond, blue-eyed Tucker (Hunter Parrish) and his squeaky-clean parents, who are divided as to whether the kid should stay in the house, wondering if he’ll be able to keep his hands out of the cookie jar. Problem is he can’t keep his hands off the neighbor’s panties and Steal Me derives a questionable moment of suspense when Jake bumps into Tucker’s little sister, a first-stage klepto who looks up to the teenager, outside the girl’s bedroom. (Will he touch her panties too or will he simply take her out for some ice cream? Stay tuned!) In this way, the film continues director Melissa Painter’s near fetish-like obsession with strained child-parent relations, sex, and mysterious characters as catalysts for change—ripe fodder for sure, except Painter seems to take her surname more seriously than she does her characters, all one-note saints or sex objects. Though there’s an elegant, tossed-off lyricism to a lot of the images, the best moments are compromised by a series of inexplicable color-saturated visual interjections, all synched to a pounding heart on the soundtrack and suggesting something of a hippie revival of Poe’s The Telltale Heart. The film’s portrait of underage sex is neutral and relatively tame, at least in regard to Jake’s relationship to a woman old enough to be his mother—on the other hand, Jake’s devotion to bringing Tucker and Lily Rose (Paz de la Huerta) together fully earns him freak-of-the-week status. De la Huerta conveys her one-dimensional tart’s insatiable appetite by speaking in what could pass for breathy iambic pentameter and Alexander’s lead character reveals himself as nothing more than a moping piece of manmeat—a repository for contrived poetic platitudes and ruminations on sex and stealing. At least the film is consistent—it’s bad from beginning to end, and like Jake, it’s totally full of itself.
- 95 min
- Melissa Painter
- Melissa Painter
- Cara Seymour, Danny Alexander, Hunter Parrish, John Terry, Paz de la Huerta, Toby Poser, Chelsea Carlson
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