Around the Fire

Around the Fire

1998, R, 107 min. Directed by John Jacobsen. Starring Stephen Tobolowsky, Lisa Burgett, Charlayne Woodard, Colman Domingo, Eric Mabius, Tara Reid, Bill Smitrovich, Devon Sawa.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 24, 2000

Simon (Sawa) has landed in strict rehab and he's barely out of high school. That's how Around the Fire opens, and it takes the rest of the movie for Simon to reflect back on his life and come to terms with the problems that have brought him to this point. A mother who died when he was very young, a father who remarried quickly and whom Simon always suspected of being unfaithful to his mother, a bunch of unambitious hippie friends, and a chip on his shoulder the size of a headstone -- all those contribute to Simon's lock-up. The film's engaging young actors try hard but have difficulty overcoming the cliché-ridden predictability of the script by Tommy Rosen and John Comerford. To its credit, Around the Fire resists turning Simon into a teenage martyr, a victim of his family and society. Oftentimes, he is wrong-headed and stubborn; it's a quality that helps rescue the movie's realism. Most authentic is the movie's portrait of the movable hippie feast that travels around with a Grateful Dead-like band. As Simon gets caught up in the group's swirl, it becomes ever more difficult to date the movie: Until someone mentions the year 1996, I thought the movie had been taking place in the Sixties (including the assumption that the man in the wheelchair whom we later learn is dying of AIDS was actually a war-damaged Vietnam veteran). Around the Fire has its heart in the right place but lacks the skills to make it beat in a new groove.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Stephen Tobolowsky Films
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
The genius dog and his adopted human son return for these animated adventures in time travel.

Kimberley Jones, March 7, 2014

The Last Ride
The last few days in the life of Hank Williams are portrayed in this plausible film re-creation.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Aug. 31, 2012

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Pika pika pika? Pika pika pika pika pika pika pika.

May 10, 2019

Sunset
Period drama keeps the techniques of Oscar winner Son of Saul but loses the emotional weight

April 26, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Around the Fire, John Jacobsen, Stephen Tobolowsky, Lisa Burgett, Charlayne Woodard, Colman Domingo, Eric Mabius, Tara Reid, Bill Smitrovich, Devon Sawa

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle