Stonewall, Roland Emmerich’s look at the New York City riots that sparked the revolution for gays and lesbian rights, is a film that suffers from a serious personality disorder. It opens Friday (Sept. 25)nationwide and the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a jubilant celebration of the momentous moment in time or a drama of depth and substance. Instead, the movie, which opens Friday (Sept. 25) suffers from trying to do both and in the end delivers neither.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to like about the rare Emmerich (Independence Day) foray into a film with some heft considering his propensity to direct huge, noisy blockbusters. There exist a few moments where this story of a country boy finding his way in the 1969-70 time frame as a gay young man has some emotionally significant moments, be they dramatic or comedic.
Danny (Jeremy Irvine) is that kid. And much like Claude Bukowski in Hair, he arrives in the Big Apple amidst whirlwind change. The primary difference: Danny is gay. He’s been kicked out of his small town Indiana home and finds a home with a group of vagabond hustlers on Christopher Street.
Ray (portrayed by Jonny Beauchamp) is that group’s ringleader and like most he struggles with his personal issues as they relate to his sexuality. He takes it upon himself to help Danny navigate this new world as he deals with memories from his past.
That’s a lot with which to contend for any film, but Emmerich, directing from Jon Rabin Baitz, doesn’t help the proceedings. As he goes through a litany of moments that feel as if they’re cliché, the audience will half expect the characters to burst out in song a la Hair or Rent.
By the same token, some comedic moments don’t work with respect to dealing with this subject matter. Emmerich needed to set the tone one way or the other.
Beyond Beauchamp’s performance and those few selected moments, there’s little to recommend with respect to Stonewall. In a year where LGBT individuals gained some measure of recognition with the U.S. Supreme Court providing for marriage equality, this film is let down. It’s the right year. Wrong film. Wrong director.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Jonny Beauchamp, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Rated: R for sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug use
Running time: 129 minutes
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com