To the LGBTQ+ community, the Stonewall Inn is as important a symbol as the Edmund Pettus Bridge is to the black community. It comes as a surprise then that Roland Emmerich’s passion project “Stonewall” was not able to effectively portray the event that led to June being dubbed Pride Month.
In real life, the riots that spurred from the events on the night of June 28, 1969, at a famous New York gay bar the Stonewall Inn were led by people like Sylvia Rivera, a transgender woman of Hispanic heritage who was born and raised in New York City. Another leader was Marsha P. Johnson, an African-American drag queen.
In “Stonewall,” the riots are led by a handsome, white cis man from Indiana named Danny, played by Jeremy Irvine.
In the film it becomes apparent that Danny and the acceptance of his sexuality are more important than the riots themselves. Johnson remains somewhere in the background, which is offensively unfortunate.
When Danny arrives to the Greenwich Village neighborhood, he befriends Ramona (Jonny Beauchamp) a transgender woman who ends up having a crush on Danny. This doesn’t mean anything to Danny though, because his heart is set on Trevor (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), a cis man who is also white and handsome. So Ramona remains the campy sidekick. A trans Gravroche to a queer Jean Valjean. In other words, not important to the story.
Emmerich’s passion project is a bland coming-of-age story with an important civil rights event set as the background. Danny has to leave his Norman Rockwell hometown after his father – the football coach for his high school – discovers that Danny has been fooling around with his star quarterback. If this idea seems cliché, that’s because it is. It is also offensive.
Danny, a seemingly cis male, has left Indiana and just as he arrives in New York, he suddenly knows more about what it means to be gay than Ramona or any of the other street urchins that he befriends. But I digress.
If you plan on seeing “Stonewall” to educate yourself on the LGBTQ+ movement, do yourself a big favor and rent the 2009 film “Milk” instead.
Emmerich is known for his big-budget disaster flicks like “Independence Day” and “2012.” It is predictable that his instincts lie in a direction that would lead a film like “Stonewall” to disaster.
“Stonewall” is playing daily at Century 14 Roseville.