Flashy but Thin: Our Review of ‘Stonewall’ on DVD

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Movies by - February 15, 2016
Flashy but Thin: Our Review of ‘Stonewall’ on DVD

Recreating a piece of history on the big screen is always a dicey proposition, even at the best of times.

While Stonewall certainly does captures the stress and anxiety of the time for anyone in the gay and LGBT communities, this movie would have benefited from a little more character development outside of a leading man role that was just too underwritten in the first place.

It’s the summer of 1969 and young Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) is forced to flee his home of Indiana in advance of his placement at Columbia after he is outed as gay in his small town.  He finds himself on Christopher Street, the center of the “community” looking to be taken in and find a place of salvation in the big city.  However discrimination follows him wherever he goes as he learns how difficult it is to be a gay man in North America.  Along with so many in the community and those tricking on the streets just to stay alive, he’s fed up, angry and wants the civil liberties and rights that everyone deserves, and ground zero for it all was an underground club called the ‘Stonewall’ where things changed forever.

Unquestionably a little off the usual beaten path that director Roland Emmerich travels and sadly it shows as the production design and look of it all is actually fairly solid but there just isn’t enough emotional meat on this story for audiences to get behind it as it can’t get away from its trappings of almost feeling like a play.

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Emmerich is an obvious talent when it comes to shooting films and making large scale events but going small here almost works to his determent as never find away to embrace the characters in this story.  It looks good and even tries to fake being important, but it leans far too much on style rather than substance.  Screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz can’t quite differentiate what makes a screenplay and a regular one as it feels sterile and unemotional, with it focusing more on the timeline and hooking up with random dudes rather than crafting a story that we care about.  It was undoubtedly hard to be gay during that time period, but it plays it all far to monochromatically and rather than seeing the rise of a multicultural neighbourhood we see a white knight farm boy get abused into being an activist with everyone else around him either kind of helpless, misguided or simply not knowing any better.  It uses the history of it all as a frame work for a coming of age story, which really doesn’t work as well as everyone involved was undoubtedly hoping for.

Jeremy Irvine was fine enough in the leading role, and playing his Danny Winters as a lost young man looking to find his way worked for the role, but he had to navigate his way through a hell of a lot of padding in the narrative to get it all somewhere meaningful.  The rest of the ensemble does have some interesting character actor’s like Ron Perlman, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Joey King, David Cubitt, Matt Craven and Caleb Landry Jones but with so many similarly themed sub plots flying throughout the main narrative, no one had a chance to sell anything it all of this an genuinely interesting.

At the end of the day, Stonewall is an ok enough of a diversion and at least tries to give us some sense of what life what like for anyone in the community at that time, but it sadly never really scratched the surface of some material that you know is sitting right underneath the surface of what actually happened during those Stonewall riots.

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Special Features on the DVD include four behind the scenes featurettes and the theatrical trailer.

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This post was written by
David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.