The technical aspects of Stonewall are as bland and middle-of-the-road as the films main character. The film’s pacing is discordant and bumpy, like traveling down an Indiana gravel road. The dullest moments get the longest screen time, while the climax of the film, the actual riot, only lasts a couple of minutes. The Stonewall riot lasted three days, but the few minutes of screen time it got would make you believe it happened in one night and everything was fine after. The use of warmer tones is meant to give the film a more vintage feel, but because almost all of the movie looks like it was shot on green screen, everything just feels fake and cheap. Unfortunately, the story mirrors the visual elements in that way.
As most of you already know from all the protests and boycotts surrounding this film, the main character is a complete fabrication. Instead of there being numerous other actual people that played a big part in the riots having a bigger voice or taking the spotlight in the film, Emmerich thought it would be more relatable to audiences to have this “straight-acting” stereotype of a character that doesn’t represent the true diversity of the movement. Through Danny’s coming-of-age journey, all of the events of Stonewall feel like background noise. Stonewall does a good job in highlighting the problem of all the homeless youth living on the streets by showing the depths they have to go through just to survive. The privilege afforded to Danny because he is more “straight-acting” than the rest of the people, is that he never has to be part of their world, and throughout the film you never feel like he truly is.
Jon Robin Baitz treats this story like a television show, writing hollow characters where more hallowed ones were needed. Many of this film’s sins against its community stem from the writing, where they created a fictional character while simultaneously watering down and combining real people that were key players in the riots. The blame can’t be completely placed on him because it wasn’t his self-financed passion project that created this disaster of a movie. Director Roland Emmerich puts his signature mark on this film in the worst possible way. Emmerich has never been great at character development or providing believable emotional depth in his films and Stonewall is no exception. The only difference is that the story of Stonewall should never be relegated to the status of Emmerich’s typical “popcorn flicks”. There are very few mainstream Hollywood films that come out about the GLBTQ+ community and its struggles, so to make one this devastatingly inaccurate is a big detriment to the community. Crimes done against another community are bad in themselves, but crimes committed against your own community are bordering on unforgivable, and of that Emmerich is unabashedly guilty.
You will find the tagline of the film, “Where pride began,” to be ironic after watching it because there is absolutely nothing about it that inspires pride. Telling this story is a huge feat that Emmerich’s filmography left him ill-prepared to tackle. In his apocalyptic films, it’s fine to make characters into caricatures because they will likely be dead soon. Things like turning famed activist Marsha P. Johnson into nothing but comic relief is completely unacceptable and offensive. Then again, this film has turned into a work of fiction. By introducing a fictional character into real events, it completely taints any truth inside the film, making it a complete work of fiction. Does seeing it that way make the movie any better? Not even a little bit.
Stonewall is such a cataclysmic disaster of a film that I’m surprised nobody has called FEMA yet to help with all the damage it’s done to the GLBTQ+ community. It is obvious that this film isn’t made for us or anybody else that is part of or supports the community. This film is meant to appeal to some, as of yet, undiscovered group of people that would enjoy seeing a fictionalized story about an important event that recently lead to marriage equality. As a film, it has the vaguest of educational value, hopefully inspiring people to find out more about the real events. Other than that, it’s just offensive rubbish.
RATING: ★★ (2/10 stars)