The Idea Thief (2011) – By Cary Conley

Joe is a down-and-out writer trying to make a living as a novelist. Trouble is that every idea he puts onto paper is somehow stolen and turned into an instant bestseller by super-author Dean King. Even before Joe is able to finish a novel, it’s already in print and at the top of the bestseller list. He’s frustrated, confused, and downright angry. How is this mysterious Dean King getting his ideas? Is his wannabe-director friend, Pharaoh, somehow stealing his work and selling it so he can fund his breakout film? Is it his editor, who might be downloading the material directly from Joe’s computer and selling his works out from under him? Or could it be Joe’s best friend, the sloppy, overweight, beer-guzzling, dart-throwing, and utterly foul-mouthed Stormy, who’s always in need of a little cash?

While Joe tries to solve the mystery of his stolen ideas, he’s also trying to figure out how to tell his best friend Wendy–who happens to be a lesbian–that he’s in love with her. To top it off, Pharaoh is actually making his dream movie, and Stormy…well, he’s just happy drinking, throwing darts, and verbally abusing Joe. Clearly, Joe is miserable. He’s broke, the love of his life is a lesbian, his good friend is living his dream by making a movie, and he can barely get a sentence typed before his idea is stolen and turned into a lucrative deal for someone he doesn’t even know!

The Idea Thief has a great deal going for it. First and foremost is the unique plot, which is turned into some very satisfying payoff in the end. The film is technically solid as well, with good sound, nice cinematography, and a solid score as well. There are also some pretty humorous bits in this comedy-drama. One example comes early in the film in a scene about a vampire about to bite a pretty girl’s neck. I particularly enjoyed this scene and thought it unique, well-designed, and funny. The film was made in Pittsburgh, so there are some inevitable–and very funny–references to George Romero and his zombie flicks, including a fantastic reference to "Bub" from Day of the Dead.

But there are also some downsides to the film. The acting in the film varies widely, a common occurrence for a cast comprised mostly of newcomers. While some of the acting is fairly strong, certain characters suffer from overacting while other characters hardly react at all. This makes the film feel a bit uneven. But probably the biggest problem with the film for me is the subplot about Joe wanting to confess his love to his lesbian friend, Wendy. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Kevin Smith’s film Chasing Amy. Not only is this subplot similar to the main storyline in Chasing Amy, but the character of Stormy also seems modeled after Jason Mewes’ longstanding character of Jay in numerous Kevin Smith films. I’m a Kevin Smith fan, so I enjoy an occasional reference; however, I think writer/director Jonathan R. Skocik allowed himself to become a bit bogged down with the homage.

One last problem with the film is that the character of Joe seems incapable of doing much more than whining and being miserable through much of the movie. This doesn’t create much sympathy for the the character. However, the ending of the film scores big points by taking Joe’s character arc a full 180 degrees and ending on a high note. The upbeat ending to a somewhat downbeat film is a definite plus. For more information about the film or to view the trailer, you can go to the official website at http://skocik.wix.com/ideathief.