Worthy, imperfect docu-drama

This is a docu-drama about the life of Abbie Hoffman, the man who wrote Steal This Book. Hoffman is a controversial figure, having been involved in counter-cultural protests in the late sixties and early seventies. No matter what you might feel about his politics or ideas, his life was filled with a certain amount of drama, which is pretty much enough for someone to get the idea of making a movie about anyone.

Likewise, politics do not on their own make a good movie. There needs to be a plot, some measure of identification, and a sense of resolution. There is enough material in Hoffman's life to keep it going, but is it interesting to watch?

Hoffman is a manic, opinionated, womanizing fellow rebelling against the injustices he sees. Eventually, he is diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, which explains his excesses, but his concerns are heartfelt and painfully important to him.

There is a framing device in use here, of a reporter interviewing people in Hoffman's life in the time when he was underground, hiding from authorities. The device is somewhat clumsily executed, and ends up supporting the story more in terms of plot than in illumination of the characters, but it gets the job done.

Vincent D'Onofrio is chameleon-like stepping into this role. I was aware he gets a lot of work in the business, but now I have more of a sense why. Hoffman comes off as an unbounded bundle of energy becuase of his powerful performance. It's nice to see Janeane Garofalo in the role of Hoffman's eventual wife, Anita. The character is well-rounded with no particular edge, perhaps a little bland compared to what we're used to from Garofalo. But, for example, she comes off as much more of a sexual object than in, say, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, because the film is not at all heavy handed about it.

In the end, I think the viewer's enjoyment will be related to interest in the topic - if you find the sixties to be boring, the movie may likely follow, but if you are open to the story, I think you'll enjoy it.

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