Even tough guys need hugs. That’s the overriding message of Melissa Painter’s independent, under-the-radar, coming-of-age tale, which was filmed entirely in Livingston and originally released in 2005. There’s a scene in the film where the tough guy—in this case a vagabond 15-year-old kleptomaniac/nymphomaniac who comes to Montana searching for his mother—finds himself crying in the lap of a nurturing mom-replacement as he’s told he’s not to blame for being abandoned. It’s similar to the “It’s not your fault” man-hug scene in Good Will Hunting between Robin Williams and Matt Damon, but, like too much of Painter’s movie, the lap cry feels too precious to have any impact.
The main character doesn’t so much need a hug as a cold shower. Jake (a raw Danny Alexander in his first—and so far only—film role) is all curly hair, come-ons and blissfully unfocused hormonal energy. As soon as he descends on little ol’ Livingston (small-town Montana has never been so naive and boring) he immediately stirs the interest of every middle-aged woman in sight. After being taken in by the most warmhearted family on earth (they quickly forgive the fact that Jake met their son while trying to jack his car stereo; he just needs a nice home, they sweetly argue), Jake sets his sights on the earthy next-door neighbor who, when not eyeing Jake, is breast-feeding her young baby.
“Did it hurt?” Jake asks the scantily clad neighbor, “…when you fell from heaven?”
She barks at the cliché, and bluntly explains that she’s been waiting to jump Jake since he arrived. And so she does.
If only the film had more of that directness. Steal Me speaks entirely in symbols—Oedipus could have been listed in the credits—but never bothers to bring them together for any lasting import (the ending, in particular, is a contrived cop-out). The film’s as aimless as Jake but, at least as seen through the eyes of the sexy neighbor, not nearly as satisfying.