Jeremy Irvine, Jonny Beauchamp, Joey King
…the execution is wholly wrong-headed.
If you haven’t seen Stonewall, you’ll know of the controversy which surrounds Roland Emmerich’s dramatisation of the 1969 Stonewall riots, in which members of the LGBT community protested against police raids at The Stonewall Inn. It’s an important chapter in the gay rights movement, and some felt, based upon the first trailer released, that Emmerich would do it a disservice, and cited that the whole affair was being whitewashed.
Is the controversy justified? Well, Stonewall tries to do two things: tell a fictional coming of age story, and set it against the backdrop of bubbling political hostility. It manages to do neither very well. It’s clear that Emmerich has the best intentions, but the execution is wholly wrong-headed.
First and foremost, its tells the fictional tale of Danny (Jeremy Irvine), a cute-as-a-button corn-fed country boy running away to New York after he is ostracised by his father for being gay. Once there, he meets Ramona (Johnny Beauchamp), a hot-tempered Puerto Rican who lives hand to mouth on the streets. Whilst Ramona is by far the most interesting character out of the two, his experiences are only salient in how they affect Danny. If Ramona mentions prostitution, then Danny must do tricks for money. It feels disingenuous and suggests that things are only truly bad if they happen to the clean cut lad.
When the riots do eventually happen, they are a merely a blip in the story. Emmerich admittedly has the unenviable task of trying to encapsulate all the tales of those four nights into a digestible mainstream film. However, reducing it to one night and fifteen minutes of a two-hour film doesn’t feel like the right to go about it. By the time Danny kick-starts the riots to the cheers of people who were actually there, such as Marsha P Johnson, Stonewall officially loses the plot.