Stonewall (Roadside Attractions, R)

Stonewall 75It is clear that this is a labor of love for Emmerich. He means well, but unfortunately he’s also clueless.

 

 

 

 

Stonewall Main

There has been much controversy surrounding Stonewall since the trailer’s release in early August. The Gay-Straight Alliance Network garnered 10,000 signatures to boycott the film on the grounds that it erases the history of the gender non-conforming and of-color queer activists that lead the charge during the Stonewall riots. It’s easy to sympathize with the outraged community, as Marsha Johnson, the trans-woman of color who is often cited as the one who threw the first brick, seems like the natural choice for a central character in a film about Stonewall. Instead of Marsha, we get white-bread Jeremy Irving—the first of many problems this film has.

Jeremy Irving plays Danny, a Midwestern farm boy who could pass for a Calvin Klein model. To no one’s surprise, he’s in love with his football teammate. They get caught fooling around one night, which leads to his parents and classmates rejecting him. He leaves home for New York City, where he meets Ray (Jonny Beauchamp) and his band of misfit hustlers—most of who turn tricks on Christopher Street. The gang often hangs out at the mob-owned bar Stonewall Inn, which gets raided by police frequently.

As opposed to the actual Stonewall riots that went on for days, in Roland Emmerich’s film there is only one riot and it feels like a missed opportunity. We’ve got a director who has several disaster movies under his belt, and his riot sequence feels totally forgettable. In fact, it could be entirely cut from the film, and it wouldn’t matter. Stonewall might be billed as being about a riot that started a movement, but it’s really about Danny’s struggle to coming-out and his political awakening.

Even as a coming-out story, Stonewall fails. Its dialogue is too on-the-nose and manipulative; it’s nauseating. In one scene someone says “love isn’t always pretty,” and another character finds that phrase so moving that they suggest it should be on a poster. Judy Garland’s death comes right before the Stonewall riots, and they make many tired references to it. Most of the performances offer nothing, but it’s tough to place all the blame on the actors, given how banal the script’s characters are. Jonny Beauchamp really elevates the material in his performance as Ray, but it’s not enough to make help me care about Ray’s superficial motivations. Jeremy Irving, however, falls short of convincing and is occasionally laughable (particularly so when he has to suffer through unwanted blowjobs). A lot of the performances could have been helped if this film had a director attached that actually knew how to direct actors, but that’s not Emmerich’s bag.

The only inspiring thing about Stonewall is to see an LGBT movie done by a director that usually makes big, bad blockbusters that reach a wide audiences. That being said, big studios aren’t funding this—most of the funding came from the pockets of Emmerich himself. If you can look past all the crap on screen, it is clear that this is a labor of love for Emmerich. He means well, but unfortunately he’s also clueless. | Cait Lore

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