Posted on September 25, 2015 at 8:00 am

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug use
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Police brutality, riots, reference to murders
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: September 25, 2015

In 1969, when the federal government prohibited the firing of gays and lesbians, when it was illegal for them to congregate in a bar or even to have consensual sex, when police harassment and brutality was not only permitted but expected, a man threw a brick, shattered a window, and began four days of riots that galvanized the fight for GLBTQ equality. The window was in a bar called Stonewall, and its name lives on as the symbol of the moment that ignited a revolution.

The movie “Stonewall,” intended as history and tribute, instead throws a brick through the meaning and the moment, shattering both. This movie is more than bad and worse than disappointing. It is a tragic distortion of a vitally important story that insults the people it tries to honor and insults its audience as well. Director Roland Emmerich (known for movies with a lot of big explosions and stunts) and screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz so vastly underestimate their audience that they apparently believe cannot understand a movie about the GLBTQ community unless we have an all-American-style high school football hero from the heartland to identify with. How do you make a movie about the Stonewall uprising and so completely miss the point?

Copyright 2015 Roadside
Copyright 2015 Roadside

Our point of entry is handsome but bland Danny (Jeremy Irvine), a Hoosier who has a crush on the quarterback. He is Goldilocks to the three bears of his family, spread out to represent all points on the gay-friendliness spectrum: a taciturn father (also his football coach), a passive mother, and a devoted and free-thinking younger sister (Joey King). When his assignations with the quarterback are discovered, “faggot” is scrawled on his locker and he is shunned by everyone. He refuses to tell his father that it was a one-time thing and leaves for New York.

And so we shift from tone-deaf cliches about the Midwest to tone-deaf cliches about Christopher Street, with a group of adorably scruffy and flamboyant runaway Lost Boys who spend their time tricking and clubbing. Their leader is an Artful Dodger type known as Ray (Jonny Beauchamp). They sit on the stoop and talk about Judy Garland, alternately enjoying shocking decadence and longing for home. Around the edges of the story are the real-life characters who are far more interesting, or at least who were in real life.

This is a bad movie, purely from the standpoint of drama. It is poorly constructed, with cardboard characters and worst-of-the-year category clangers in dialog, provoking snicker and then outright snorts from the audience. “I’m too angry to love.” “These kids have nothing to lose.” But the monumental failure here is the disrespect for the real-life courageous souls who fought back nearly half a century ago and for the audience, who would relish a film that does them justice.

Parents should know that this film has explicit sexual references and situations, including predatory behavior, abuse, and prostitution, homophobic and bigoted insults, police brutality, and riots. Characters use very strong language, drink and smoke, and use drugs.

Family discussion: How was the gay rights movie like and not like other civil rights movements of the 20th century?

If you like this, try: “Longtime Companion.” “Pride,” and “Milk”

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Based on a true story Drama GLBTQ and Diversity Movies -- format Politics

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