Review: History shown from a fictional perspective
There may be a good movie to be made about the Stonewall riots, which triggered much of the gay power movement in 1970, but “Stonewall” isn’t it.
For one thing, it’s hardly about Stonewall at all; the riots went on for a few nights, but the movie walks away after the first night. Instead it’s a look at a fictional Midwestern kid who comes to New York City and gets swept up in the world of (too) flamboyant gay street hustlers.
Danny (Jeremy Irvine) is the son of a tight-lipped football coach in Indiana when he gets caught messing around with (who else?) the quarterback. Disgraced and ostracized, he runs off to NYC, where he’s supposed to start Columbia in the fall. It being 1970, he takes his hunky wholesome self to the gay neighborhood of Christopher Street.
Where he meets Ray (a broad Jonny Beauchamp), the leader of a group of young male prostitutes who live crammed into fleabag hotel rooms. Soon, Danny reluctantly joins the crowd, which regularly swirls into the Stonewall, a gay dive bar run by the Mafia that’s raided regularly.
Danny goes through various humiliations, getting beat up, pimped out and being left heartbroken by a gay rights activist (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). He’s at the Stonewall when it gets raided yet again one fateful night and all the well-earned frustrations of the patrons come to a boil. Danny throws the first brick (no one knows who actually did) and the riot is on.
Director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day”) brings a Hollywood sheen to the film that it hardly needs. Viewing Stonewall through the lens of an aw shucks kid who didn’t exist somewhat degrades a truly historic event. Call this sympathetic dishonesty.
Rated R for sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug use
Running time: 129 minutes