I'm surprised no one started a riot in the theater because I wish I had a brick to throw at the screen. I sincerely sat down to watch Stonewall wanted to be proved wrong. I wanted to believe that we had judged the movie to quickly. I wanted to believe that I would walk out of the movie wanting to do more to fight for lgbtq rights and proud of how my gay for fathers and mothers had started a movement. I wanted to feel how I felt when I saw Selma or Straight Outta Compton. All I ended up feeling was regret for not waiting to see this when it eventually landed on Amazon or Netflix or worse on TBS with the profanity removed and commerical breaks.
Stonewall isn't just bad because its whitewashed, inaccurate, cliched and unispiring Its a bad movie period. Beware spoilers ahead.
With all of the rich, diverse and true stories that could have been told about Stonewall and its attendees and the social and political issues and injustices that most members of the LGBT community at the time faced, we get a story about a white guy who's biggest problem is he's too handsome to function. Stonewall focuses much of its attention on Danny (played by Jeremy Irvine) a character so one dimensional he's almost transparent. When asked about this decision director Roland Emmerich said :
“You have to understand one thing: I didn’t make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people,” he said. “I kind of found out, in the testing process, that actually, for straight people, is a very easy in. Danny’s very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. can feel for him.”
Emmerich, who has previously directed blockbuster features like Independence Day, Godzilla, and The Day After Tomorrow, said he wanted to educate young people about the riots. He felt the best approach would be a personal one. “When do we see a personal film from you?” Emmerich said his friends kept asking him before he took on the Stonewall project. It’s partly because of the personal element imbued in the film, Emmerich said, that has led to some of the protests surrounding his approach. “As a director you have to put yourself in your movies, and I’m white and gay,”
In other words despite success of movies like Straight Outta Compton, The Perfect Guy and the last season of broadcast television where persons of colors are the lead actors and actressess, that wouldn't work for a film about the LGBT community because we're so not diverse.
I kept wondering did someone straight write this? No self respecting same gender loving person would ever yell "Gay Power!" Ever. Thats the scene that made me want to throw a brick at the screen.
Marsha P and Friends
A couple of weeks ago the creators of the film released a behind the scenes look at the film and of Otoja Abit stepping into the role of Marsha P Johnson and highlights of her in the movie. This was supposed to silence the critics that wondered why the movie didn't focus more on Johnson and the other trans women and persons of color (Silvia Rivera, Miss Peaches and others)who were at Stonewall and that Johnson was a major force in the movie. Lies. He had more lines discussing playing the character than dialogue in the actual film. You can literally count how many times Johnson speaks in the movie. In the scene when the actual riots occur she's not even around and shows up after all the action takes place like "hey girls what I miss". The other characters of color are all background characters and and punchlines.
We weren't the only people that didn't like it. The reviews so far have been unforgiving:
Some dumb part of me, though, found myself giving Stonewall, and Emmerich, the benefit of the doubt. I rather enjoyed Emmerich’s other recent out-of-the-box film, the surprisingly affecting 2011 Shakespeare-authorship drama Anonymous, a piece of historical hogwash that was nonetheless lovingly, thoughtfully made. Maybe Emmerich could bring the same personal sensitivity to Stonewall, a movie he’s reportedly wanted to make for a long time. Plus, in 2015 a movie couldn’t be that tone-deaf about its politics and its optics, right? Surely they were just using sort-of-a-name Jeremy Irvine to advertise the film, while in actuality, the movie is the fair, appropriately representative ensemble piece that a story like this requires. That was my naïve hope, anyway.
Turns out, Stonewall is perhaps even worse than some feared it would be—more offensive, more white-washed, even more hackishly made. It’s so bad that it’s hard to know where to begin a catalogue of the film’s sins. Maybe you start with its leering, bizarrely sex-shaming tone, which has poor cherubic baby-hunk Danny (Irvine)—kicked out of his house by his football-coach father after he’s caught giving the quarterback, yes the quarterback, a blow job—being preyed upon by gross, sweaty, teen-hungry older men upon arriving in New York. In two different scenes, Danny cries pitifully as one of these horrible, horrible men (one of them in grotesque drag) fellate him. (He needs the money, and is then turned out against his will.) Danny shuns the advances of any younger man who isn’t strapping and white, particularly those of Jonny Beauchamp’s Ray/Ramona, a queer Latino street kid who has a big crush on pretty-boy Danny.
Again that was Vanity Fair.
Mic wasn't too kind either:
A primary complaint about the trailer was that a crucial scene — the thrust of the brick into the Stonewall Inn that actually starts the riots — was changed so that the white male lead (Danny, played by Jeremy Irvine) is the inciter, not one of the trans women or people of color. Though it's unknown who exactly threw the first brick, many accounts say it was Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman who isn't even on the scene in Stonewall.
Cong (Vladimir Alexis), a person of color, first pulls out the brick to throw. Danny takes it away from him, saying violence isn't the answer. When his ex-boyfriend Trevor (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) comes onto the scene and sees him holding the brick, he chagrins Danny, saying that's not the way.
Danny throws the brick, in what Irvine himself described to Mic as "retaliation" toward his peaceful protest-loving ex. "It's the only way," Danny screams to the collected masses. Then, he thrusts a fist into the air. "Gay power!"
There are other motivations that inform Danny's decision to throw the brick, but the movie cuts into its own credibility to have him go from pacifism to aggression in the span of about a minute. The beginning of one of the most important events in the quest for LGBTQ rights is framed as an act of one-upsmanship from ex to ex. It's not just a clumsily written scene, it's trampling over a far more complex history.
Gawker was perhaps the most brutal, their review was simply titled:
There Aren't Enough Bricks in the World to Throw at Roland Emmerich’s Appalling Stonewall:
People talk about the advances the gay community has made, and then you see something like Stonewall and you understand that our public face is tantamount to a high school student who’s insecurely trying to pass as “normal.” Those in charge are largely still afraid of gayness, and those of us who are not afraid of ourselves or what plainly incorrect people think about our lives are not served by this regressive tripe. It’s, in fact, nauseating to watch blown up on a screen. Grow the fuck up, Hollywood.
During the movie’s brief rioting scene, I thought, “If only this movie had the balls to throw bricks and squirt lighter fluid at the real target.” If only this movie had a shred of the courage of the “unsung heroes” it leaves ignored.
Save your money. In fact lets all pool our money together and make a better film which shouldn't be hard because this was garbage.