The story is simple. Fifteen-year-old traveling tramp Jake (Danny Alexander) comes to Montana in search of his long-lost prostitute mother who may or may not still live in the sleepy rural town. A kleptomaniac to the core, he is caught stealing a car stereo from local teen Tucker (Hunter Parrish). After a brief fistfight, the boys become fast friends as Tuckers family takes pity on Jake, giving him a bed and temporary respite from his wandering ways. Soon, however, things come apart as Jake cannot stop himself from stealing, both the small knickknacks from town and the heart of Tuckers longtime crush, Lily Rose (Pas de la Huerta).
Painter has certainly succeeded in establishing a glimpse of teenage angst through
the pains of sexual awakening that exists far from the average Hollywood fare.
Jake is attracted to his foster mother Sarah (Cara Seymour, in an utterly somnambulic
turn), single-mother neighbor Grace (Toby Poser) and Lily Rose, all the while
soliloquizing about the intense rush of breaking and entering. Yet for all of
their wanton edginess, these alternative choices amount to very little. Painter
never comes close to making any point about the wayward teenager, alternative
friendships, or hormone-fueled romance in the modern world, and her utterly mystifying
ending undercuts everything the film seemed to stand for.
Cinematographer Paul Ryan, whose second-unit credits include the similarly excellent, Montana-based photography of A River Runs Through It and The Horse Whisperer, paints an effortlessly magnetic landscape where the plight of man seems insignificant compared to the vastness of the world. Sadly, when combined with Painters un-engaging screenplay and tactless editing by Melissa Bretherton, this purely scenic tale of Jake and Tucker cannot fill the frame or the scant 95-minute running time that labors ceaselessly.
Hollywood can undoubtedly benefit from the unique viewpoints of independent filmmakers, especially on the tricky subjects of teenage torment and impatient love. Independent filmmaking can undoubtedly benefit from the audacity and vision of Melissa Painter. Audiences, however, can undoubtedly benefit from a quiet night at home, safely away from Steal Me.
Steal Me opens at Laemmles Sunset 5 Sept. 23.