‘Stonewall’ movie review: Good intentions can’t save drama about the key …

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Stonewall’ Director Says He Chose A ‘Straight-Acting’ Character To Appeal To Straight Audiences.

“Stonewall” could not be more timely. Ever since the release of the theatrical trailer for “Stonewall” earlier this year, director Roland Emmerich has faced outrage from the queer community.Roland Emmerich is famous for making disaster flicks but Stonewall (R) is a catastrophe, his dabble in low-budget, “important” filmmaking at the expense of a cultural touchstone.A crucial flash point in the gay-rights movement is the setting of a new movie from a filmmaker better known for apocalyptic spectacle than historical drama.How in the name of Harvey Milk did Roland Emmerich, the German-born director of a series of diminishing-returns disaster movies from “Independence Day” to “The Day After Tomorrow” to “White House Down,” end up in charge of a semi-major historical drama about the Stonewall riots of June 1969, founding event of the contemporary LGBT movement?

The riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York in June of 1969 were a landmark event in the struggle for equality for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people. Many individuals have claimed that the film “whitewashes” the Stonewall narrative — often cited as the beginning of the mainstream gay rights movement — and erases the drag queens, transgender patrons and queer people of color present during — and largely responsible for — the rebellion. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the 26-year-old recently in Toronto where he defended the Roadside Attractions release (due in theaters on Sept. 25) which had caused a stir online after the trailer debuted on Aug. 4. I think we need to file Emmerich’s “Stonewall” – a well-intentioned, profoundly silly and borderline insulting movie – under the category of Yeah That Happened or perhaps God Reminding Us We Are Idiots, and then forget it as soon as possible.

The event that birthed a movement is a second thought (if that) for Emmerich and screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz, choosing to focus on a fictional few Christopher Street residents, homeless and hopeless. Fresh off the bus from Indiana is Danny (Jeremy Irvine), a Ken doll driven out of town after being outed and disowned by his father, the local football coach. But Beauchamp says all will be erased once audiences see the film. “It was a good thing because I’ve never heard so many people say the names Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. The film’s heart is in the right place – trying to recapture the mistreatment of the LGBT community with an array of discriminatory and violent acts, and using that as the backdrop for a payback uprising.

He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him.” “In the movie’s production notes, Emmerich notes that Danny is also ‘straight-acting,’ which is a term that I can’t believe any gay man uses anymore, much less a gay man who’s taken it upon himself to teach the world about a pivotal moment in gay history,” wrote Gawker writer Rich Juzwiak. But by the time we get to the riot (it actually raged off and on for several days on and around Christopher Street in Greenwich Village) the film has lost much of its sizzle. Not only does this film seem to have a problem with erasure, but apparently also with reproducing the heteronormative ideals that the very essence of being a queer person — and the spirit of Stonewall — goes against.

Beyond that the only justification I can come up with is Emmerich’s oft-repeated claim that he makes “movies for the masses,” who presumably don’t know much about Stonewall or the birth of the Gay Liberation/Gay Pride movements. What a waste of a chance to make an incredible film that could honor the legacy of those who fought to bring equality — on our own terms — to the queer community. The terminology we use for trans people today was not available in the late ‘60s, and Ray and his friends refer to themselves in different ways at different times, which strikes me as contextually accurate.) Anyway, at that point I wanted to throw up my hands, turn off the TV and go read the third “Game of Thrones” book again instead. Johnson, among others playing figures real and fictive. “We wanted to show all forms of gayness and gay life, from a transgender woman to a guy who basically has a marriage.” The coming-of-age story follows Danny, a Midwestern teenager who arrives in Greenwich Village after his parents discover he is gay and throw him out of the house.

It seems entirely likely that Emmerich just isn’t bright enough to see why thrusting a Judy-loving, effeminate and downright “queeny” gay man like Ray front and center so rapidly presents any sort of problem. Danny’s introduction to his new life includes turning a trick and starting a romance with a slick, older gay activist ( Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) involved with the Mattachine Society, an early gay-rights organization.

Emmerich, who assembled the $17 million cost of the film, shot in Montreal. “It completely represents the spectrum, racially and gender-identification wise,” Mr. They were constantly persecuted and victimized by the police, subjected to beatings or rapes by their clients with no consequences, and largely shunned by mainstream gay activists who sought “normalcy” and assimilation. Baitz said. “It’s certainly not going to make the people who are unhappy any happier, but the film painstakingly re-created the events as we’ve seen in news footage and photographs.” As part of his research, Mr. Peopel tell me all the time (even many gay men) “but you don’t act gay” or you “act straight .” There are many gay men who people don’t realize are gay because they don’t act in a way they consider effiminate, it does not mean we are “acting straight.” We are just being ourselves.

Beauchamp was introduced to members of the Stonewall Veterans’ Association and spent time with Martin Boyce, one of the most visible of the dwindling number of Stonewall survivors. It was “Gay Power” in action, angrily and forcefully demonstrated by people who seemed to have less power than virtually anyone else in American society. I was going to be like, “Oh, I just had this audition and it didn’t go so well.” And I got the call in the elevator, and I kind of had a moment, and it was raining — it was sopping wet — and I was so happy. But that’s no excuse for making Ray and the other casting-call characters Danny encounters on Christopher Street such a collection of dismal clichés.

There are so many gay/bi men that don’t fit societies view of how they should act that I would dare to say they likely outnumber the gay/bi people you notice. Boyce that the actor learned the now-forgotten concept of “scare drag.” “Maybe you’d paint your face, or wear a ponytail, but you’d have a man’s shirt or pants,” Mr.

There’s the hulking African-American trans woman, complete with outrageous slang vocabulary and two-snaps-up mannerisms that feel almost 20 years early, and the younger, gender-queer black radical (played by the charismatic Vladimir Alexis) who believes in taking what he wants. Emmerich said it was such characters—homeless, young and scrapping for themselves—that largely inspired him to make “Stonewall,” regardless of how his interpretation is met by critics. “They can all see the movie and they can say what they want,” he said. “One of our producers said we already succeeded in putting Stonewall more in the zeitgeist.

Baitz labors to give each of these characters a distinctive moment, but it feels way too much like a theatrical exercise, meant to convey such radical notions as “Homosexuals aren’t all the same” or “Beneath it all, we’re always looking for love.” There’s also more than a little of the “Mississippi Burning” white-savior problem in “Stonewall,” which feels both excessively calculated and way too dumb to be effective. As usual in sexual matters Europeans led the way, with three of the era’s masters — Fellini, Schlesinger, Ken Russell — raising eyebrows and consciousness. •Midnight Cowboy: Jon Voight’s street hustler isn’t a flattering image, and his male customers are scum. But as the only X-rated best picture Oscar winner, John Schlesinger’s movie braced mainstream audiences for candor to come. • Fellini Satyricon: Federico Fellini earned an Oscar nomination for directing this Roman Empire fantasy, based on a book by Petronius. Two scholars compete for a young slave boy, trekking through a sensually grotesque dreamscape. • Women in Love: Glenda Jackson won the best actress Oscar in Russell’s adaptation of D.H.

Danny is unquestionably meant as our “normal” guide to this freaky world; based on the handful of occasions we see him turn tricks, it would seem that receiving a blow job from an obese businessman wearing a 1920s sheath dress is the most traumatic fate that could possibly befall a Hoosier farm boy. But I’m not arguing that the fundamental problems of “Stonewall” are about representation, although there will be no shortage of complaints on that score. When the group is sitting outside on a stoop, it all looks too staged, as if they are waiting to break into a song from “Rent.” Ray is a descendant of, or precursor to, Bobby C., one of Tony Manero’s lost-soul friends in “Saturday Night Fever.” A stifling dinner featuring Danny and his conversationally challenged parents is reminiscent of the dead-marriage kitchen table agony of Meryl Streep in “The Bridges of Madison County.” And the riot conjures images of Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing,” with people standing around wondering what to do. However, the scene everyone remembers is Oliver Reed and Alan Bates stripped naked and wrestling by firelight, a full-frontal first for serious cinema. • The Damned: A hellish dramatization of Nazi-era German decadence, directed by Luchino Visconti. Originally rated X, largely due to a homosexual orgy scene, a version that isn’t drastically edited is hard to find. • Staircase: The only dud on the list but with purpose.

Emmerich and Baitz focus on some of the immediate issues surrounding the Stonewall uprising, including the homophobic brutality of the NYPD, the Mafia’s control of the entire gay bar scene and the political divisions within the gay community. (The Mattachine Society, the biggest gay-rights group of that era, insisted its activists wear suits and ties while passing out leaflets.) But Stonewall did not happen inside some gay Manhattan vacuum, and “Stonewall” offers almost no sense of any larger social or political context. He’s voicing Count Dracula again, with his frequent co-star Kevin James returning as Frankenstein. (Please, don’t let anyone suggest that to them as a live-action project.) Andy Samberg’s voice joins the cast as a budding vampire, while Dracula’s daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) is ready to spread her bat wings. Danny remarks at one point that if he hadn’t come to the Village to be gay he might have enlisted and shipped out to Vietnam, but beyond that none of those issues is ever mentioned. OK, you can start to construct a tissue-paper argument that Baitz and Emmerich are not obliged to deliver some grandiose history lesson about 1969, and that they’re paying tribute to a small group of marginalized and reviled gay men, lesbians and trans people who stood up for themselves in the face of intolerable oppression and started a revolution.

My life is completely different — I’ve got a whole new kind of circle a friends, a whole new world that I’m slowly learning how to navigate — and it’s been such a blessing.

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