Stonewall (2015 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roland Emmerich|
|Written by||Jon Robin Baitz|
|Music by||Rob Simonsen|
|Edited by||Adam Wolfe|
|Distributed by||Roadside Attractions|
Stonewall is a 2015 American drama film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Jon Robin Baitz, and starring Jeremy Irvine, Jonny Beauchamp, Ron Perlman, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Joey King, Caleb Landry Jones, Matt Craven, Atticus Mitchell, and Mark Camacho. It was released on September 25, 2015, by Roadside Attractions.
The drama is a coming-of-age genre film, and centers on fictional Danny Winters, a gay white teenage boy from Indiana, who flees the conservative countryside in the late 1960s and moves to New York City. Shortly before leaving, he is discovered by friends while making love with his boyfriend. His father is upset, and while his mother is ambivalent as she feels for her son, she does not stand up to her husband either. His father then refuses to sign the scholarship application for Columbia University where Danny is supposed to attend.
Danny leaves for New York anyway, leaving behind his supportive younger sister Phoebe. After reaching Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, he is befriended by a multiracial group of young, gay, and genderfluid street kids and drag queens, and witnesses police violence against them. Danny goes into the Stonewall Inn accompanied by his friends, including Ray, and is asked for a dance by an older man Trevor, who is a member of the Mattachine Society. Later that night, the police raid the bar and arrests some customers. Danny, who did not get arrested because he was not cross-dressing, picks up Ray at the police station next day. Danny, destitute, then turns to prostitution and is seen disgraced while being fellated by a middle-aged man. Danny then goes to a meeting of the Mattachine Society, which purports to attain gay rights through conforming to society rather than radicalism. There he finds Trevor, and though they differ in opinion, they end up spending the night together.
Danny soon finds Trevor with another young man, and, heartbroken, he decides to leave the Village. But immediately after, he is abducted and forcibly sent out to a high-class prostitution business, at the direction of Ed Murphy, who runs the Stonewall Inn. Murphy has colluded with corrupt policemen and exploited homeless gay youth to his own advantage. Danny escapes with the help of Ray and the two go to the bar to confront Murphy. Then the police raid the bar and arrests some customers again. Danny is thrown onto the street as well as the rest of the customers, and, despite Trevor's dissuasion, hurls a brick into one of the bar's windows, screaming "Gay power!" This instigates the crowd to attack the police, who lock themselves up in the bar in response.
One year later, after finishing the first year at the university, Danny returns home and tells his sister that he is going to attend the gay liberation march on Christopher Street. The film ends on the day of the parade where he is marching in the street after reuniting with his friends and discovers his mother and sister on the sidewalk.
- Jeremy Irvine as Danny Winters
- Jonny Beauchamp as Ray/Ramona
- Joey King as Phoebe Winters
- Caleb Landry Jones as Orphan Annie
- Matt Craven as Seymour Pine
- David Cobitt as Coach Winters
- Vladimir Alexis as Queen Cong
- Ben Sullivan as Quiet Paul
- Andrea Frankle as Joyce Winters
- Patrick Garrow as Bob Kohler
- Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Trevor
- Ron Perlman as Ed Murphy
- Atticus Mitchell as Matthew
- Karl Glusman as Joe
- Otoja Abit as Marsha P. Johnson
- Mark Camacho as Fat Tony
- Joanne Vannicola as Sam
- Yan England as Terry
- Arthur Holden as Frank Kameny
- Veronika Vernadskaya
- Richard Jutras as Queen Tooey
In April 2013, Emmerich spoke about the film, saying: "I may want to do a little movie—about $12–14 million—about the Stonewall riots in New York. It's about these crazy kids in New York, and a country bumpkin who gets into their gang, and at the end they start this riot and change the world." On March 31, 2014, the producers announced it would film in Montreal.
On March 25, 2015, Roadside Attractions acquired distribution rights to the film. In July 2015, Roadside Attractions scheduled the film for a September 25, 2015, release. The film opened to $112,414 with 127 locations, for an "abysmal" per-theater average of $871.
Critical response has been generally negative. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 10% rating based on 71 critics with an average score of 3.6/10. The site's consensus states: "As an ordinary coming-of-age drama, Stonewall is merely dull and scattered—but as an attempt to depict a pivotal moment in American history, it's offensively bad." Metacritic reports that, based on 27 critics, the film has a normalized score of 30 out of 100, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Writing for Vanity Fair, Richard Lawson described the film as "maddeningly, stultifyingly bungled", the script as "alarmingly clunky" and featuring "production design that makes late 1960s Christopher Street look like Sesame Street". Lawson faults the director for taking "one of the most politically charged periods of the last century" and making it into "a bland, facile coming-of-age story", and says that the role of Marsha P. Johnson was "played as comic relief, flatly". According to Lawson, the treatment of Johnson is part of a wider lack of respect for non-white and "non-butch" characters in the movie; he believes they are treated with "only a minimal, pat-on-the-head kind of attention", showing the riots through a "white, bizarrely heteronormative lens".
In The New York Times, Stephen Holden wrote that the film "does a reasonably good job of evoking the heady mixture of wildness and dread that permeated Greenwich Village street life" but that "its invention of a generic white knight who prompted the riots by hurling the first brick into a window is tantamount to stealing history from the people who made it". Writing for Gawker in a piece entitled "There Aren't Enough Bricks in the World to Throw at Roland Emmerich's Appalling Stonewall", Rich Juzwiak wrote that the film is "formally inconsistent" and "teaches you about as much about being gay as the Aristocats taught you about being an aristocrat." Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune wrote that, while Emmerich "has made a movie even less historically accurate than 10,000 BC", the most fatal problem of the film is that it "embrace[s] every wrong cliche", which "in the desperate lack of nuance afflict[s] nearly every performance." Maya Stanton wrote in Entertainment Weekly, "Roland Emmerich has taken a seminal moment in gay rights history and reduced it to mere background for a coming-of-age story we've seen before ... Emmerich and screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz could have focused on real-life participants (the filmmakers have been accused of whitewashing history since the trailer debuted, and deservedly so) or explored any number of themes that would've been more compelling than 'pretty white kid comes out, struggles.' The subject matter deserves better, and so do we."
"Stonewall is uninterested in any history that doesn’t revolve around its white, male, stereotypically attractive protagonist. It almost entirely leaves out the women who participated in the riots and helped create the Gay Liberation Front, which included youth, trans people, lesbian separatists and people from all other parts of the spectrum of our community."
Speaking to The Guardian, Stonewall historian David Carter called the film "a very lame and inaccurate portrayal." Another Stonewall veteran Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt also denounced the film's lack of accuracy in terms of the characters' choices, its production design, etc., while acknowledging "the street kids being the main engine of things" and the extent to which the police were violent against homosexuals to be accurate.
Prior to release, the promotional trailer was criticized by many for its lack of representation of minorities, who were prominently involved in the historical event, in particular people of color, drag queens, butch lesbians and trans women. Emmerich responded to the controversy, saying, "The film is racially and sexually far more diverse than some people appear to think."
Irvine, who plays the lead role in the film, denied that key historical figures have been omitted, or whitewashed. "To anyone with concerns about the diversity of the #StonewallMovie, I saw the movie for the 1st time last week and can assure you all that it represents almost every race and division of society that was so fundamental to one of the most noteworthy civil rights movements in living history,” Irvine wrote on his Instagram account. “Marsha P. Johnson is a major part of the movie, and although 1st hand accounts of who threw the 1st brick in the riots vary wildly, it is a fictional black transvestite character, played by the very talented Vladimir Alexis, who pulls out the 1st brick in the riot scene,” he continued.
Responding to the criticism the film itself received, Emmerich said of his casting choice: "I didn't make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people... As a director you have to put yourself in your movies, and I'm white and gay."
In 2016, Emmerich blamed the film's failure on "one voice on the internet who saw a trailer and said, this is whitewashing Stonewall. Stonewall was a white event, let’s be honest. But nobody wanted to hear that any more."
- Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community (1984), a documentary of the decades leading up to the Stonewall uprising
- Stonewall (1995), another fictional presentation of the events leading up to the riots
- After Stonewall (1999), a documentary of the years from Stonewall to century's end
- Stonewall Uprising (2010), a documentary presentation using archival footage, photographs, documents and witness statements
- List of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender-related films of 2015
- White savior narrative in film
- Whitewashing in film
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