Director Rolad Emmerich is known best for making CGI-heavy disaster movies like “Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” and “2012.” But with “Stonewall” (opening Friday) the filmmaker delivers his most personal film yet, and unfortunately, it isn’t going over well with anyone who’s seen it.
The film looks back on a landmark moment in the modern gay rights movement, the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969, in which a police raid of the gay bar led to patrons rioting.
Emmerich, who is openly gay, had to put up his own money to make the film (budgeted at $US15 million) as no studio would take it on.
Though it seems like Emmerich’s intentions for making the movie come from a good place, the public reaction has been anything but kind. The trailer, which revealed the movie’s lead was a straight white guy (Jeremy Irvine), debuted to biting criticism. The Stonewall patrons were mostly non-white.
Then there’s this quote Emmerich gave during a BuzzFeed interview which made it seem like his movie was meant to cate to a straight audience:
“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, [Danny] is a very easy in. Danny’s very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him.”
With a current rating of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, things aren’t looking good for the film going into its opening weekend.
Here’s how critics feel about it so far:
Variety commented on its tame portrayal of the events:
“Disaster maven Roland Emmerich treats a seminal event in the gay pride movement as the mere backdrop to the otherwise vanilla story of a homeless Indiana teen looking for community in New York City.”
Vanity Fair points out its glaring flaw:
“But more troubling was how Emmerich seemed to be framing the story, with Jeremy Irvine playing some beautiful, blond angel from the Midwest, sent to the Village to marshall the non-white, gender-queer street kids into action. Which, y’know, is certainly not how the Stonewall riots, which were largely incited by drag queens and trans women of colour and lesbians, actually happened.”
The Wrap touched on its absurdity:
“‘Stonewall’ somehow manages to be simultaneously bloated and anemic, overstuffed and underpopulated. It’s a story about a true historical event that spends way too much time on its fictional lead character; the tone is so erratic and artificial that it wouldn’t feel surprising if the movie suddenly became a musical.”
The Playlist suggests Emmerich needs to go back to what he knows best:
“If ‘Stonewall’ is what it means for Emmerich to make an artist’s statement, please, for the love of god, someone start setting up dynamite charges around the Seven Wonders of the World so that he might return to his wheelhouse.”
The Guardian eloquently tells it like it is:
“It’s still difficult for gay cinema to pass into the mainstream. Emmerich, who put his own money into making the film, should be cheered for giving it a shot. Unfortunately the compromises he’s made leave ‘Stonewall’ feeling neutered. A member of the Mattachine Society makes a speech about how gay men should assimilate. “Wearing a suit and tie will make them realise they’re just like you,” he says. ‘Stonewall’ tries the same trick. By trying to disguise itself as a coming-of-age romance, it hides the real story underneath.”
But Salon has the mic-drop:
“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.”
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