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Review: Stonewall (TIFF 2015)

Stonewall (TIFF 2015)
09.23.2015
4 10

PLOT: Kicked-out by his parents for being gay, young Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) packs his bags and moves to 1960’s NYC in the hopes of finding acceptance. His nights at the Stonewall, a historic gay club, afford him a look a life led out in the open and may even help kick-off a revolution.

REVIEW: I’m sure director Roland Emmerich’s STONEWALL is well-intentioned. A passion project for the director, Emmerich’s left behind his hundred-million dollar budgets in order to document an event close to this heart, the infamous 1969 Stonewall Riots, which helped kick-off the gay rights movement and has become one of the most important, unifying moments in LGTB history. However, Emmerich’s own commercial sensibilities get the better of him as he’s taken what could have been an important work and diluted it to the point that it feels like just another mainstream Hollywood movie, unlikely to be accepted by the culture it portrays or even the general audience it seems to court.

 

The film is already controversial because of a scene in the trailer that features the hero, Irvine’s square-jawed, white Danny, throwing the brick that started the riot. In reality it was Marsha P. Johnson, a drag queen and trans-activist who did it, and by turning this figure into a white male, Emmerich’s clearly offended a huge chunk of his audience, who are already calling for the movie to be boycotted.

Ignoring this (admittedly appalling) change, the rest of STONEWALL isn’t really any better. A pretty clumsy coming-of-age story, all the clichés of the genre are hit here, with Danny’s close-minded, small-town folks being just awful, and only his smart sister (Emmerich favorite Joey King) supporting him. As usual, our hero is tempted by two love interests,  one being the handsome, un-attainable and wealthy Trevor (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and the other being Jonny Beauchamp’s quick-witted Ray, who turns tricks to help support his family of friends. Beauchamp (who was Angelique on Penny Dreadful) is far from subtle but effective as the likable Ray, although Irvine’s acting is depressingly two dimensional. He’s just too stiff to really be an appealing hero, and co-star Caleb Landry-Jones (who admittedly tends to overact) might have been a better choice.

 

STONEWALL fares better in the supporting roles, with Ron Perlman stealing scenes as Ed Murphy, the mob-connected owner of the STONEWALL, whose life after the event as revealed by the film, would have made for a better movie than this. Matt Craven also elicits some sympathy as one of the few non-bigoted cops, who’s more interested in shutting down the Stonewall because of the mob than to simply punish gays, which seems to be the goal of his colleagues.

As usual for Emmerich, STONEWALL is technically polished, with Montreal making a convincing stand-in for sixties New York, and while a lot of old pop standards like ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ are trotted out, they still do the trick nicely. While maybe not quite as bad as you’d assume given the trailer, Emmerich’s STONEWALL is sadly not the big crossover hit that was likely intended, nor is it a movie that’s likely to amass much of a cult following among the LGTB audience, who’ll resent the way history has literally been whitewashed. There’s a great film to be made about the Stonewall Riots, but this isn’t it.

 

Extra Tidbit: tiff, tiff 2015
Source: JoBlo.com

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2:24AM on 09/23/2015
While I really had no doubt the film would be bad, considering it's Emmerich tackling it, I should correct one thing: it's not known for sure that it was in fact Marsha who threw the first brick. While attributed to her, it's not actually known who started the riot or that it was even started by a single person. But I agree it was sad to attribute it to another white guy, though I kind of get why.
While I really had no doubt the film would be bad, considering it's Emmerich tackling it, I should correct one thing: it's not known for sure that it was in fact Marsha who threw the first brick. While attributed to her, it's not actually known who started the riot or that it was even started by a single person. But I agree it was sad to attribute it to another white guy, though I kind of get why.
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