Just as it's been argued that it's impossible to make a truly anti-war film, since images of warfare inherently glamorize it, it could be argued that it's impossible to make a film about budding teen sexuality that doesn't render the camera, and by extension the audience, complicit in its leering, invasive gaze. That certainly seems to be the case with Steal Me, an erotically charged coming-of-age movie that fetishizes the ripe sensuality of nubile teen bodies in a way that borders on comic. It's filled with bold, vivid, oversaturated colors that match the passionate emotions and intense adolescent high spirits onscreen, a quality it shares with such superb recent films about young people as Bully, Me And You And Everyone We Know, Mean Creek, and the films of David Gordon Green.
But those films all have crucial ingredients Steal Me lacks, such as engaging characters, compelling stories, and dialogue that doesn't sound like it belongs in some cheesy Zalman King softcore romp. The film boasts an intriguing look, but little else. Its miscalculations begin with the fatal miscasting of Danny Alexander as an almost-feral teenage runaway who, while trying to steal a car radio, gets caught by a pretty Hanson look-alike (Hunter Parrish) and taken back home to Parrish's all-American family like a lost puppy. Soon, Alexander is exchanging sexually charged glances with folks of all different genders and age groups, as well as shtupping the hot-to-trot next-door neighbor. But is Alexander predator or prey, hustler or victim of a close-minded town without pity?
Alexander's part in Steal Me calls for the irresistible ripe sexuality of a young James Dean or at least a young Ryan Phillippe, but Alexander resembles a nebbishy young Ben Stiller, which makes watching him send everyone into a fevered carnal tizzy a little like watching Adam Sandler play Casanova. Steal Me suffers from a distinct charisma vacuum at the center, which makes it easy to linger on its many shortcomings, especially its stilted dialogue and pseudo-poetic, pseudo-philosophical narration. With so much of its blood diverted from its brain to its overheated nether regions, is it any wonder Steal Me feels so dizzy?