Stonewall

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Stonewall Movie Poster Image
Disappointing gay-rights drama has sex, language, violence.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 129 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Shows the necessity of anti-discrimination laws and the value of support systems. Encourages action to protest unsafe and unfair conditions and situations.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Danny cares about his sister and his new friends, and he tries to help them see that they need to stop hustling and find a better opportunity for themselves. Ray protects and helps Danny after he moves to New York. Trevor wants to protest peacefully.

Violence

Cops brutally beat gay men with sticks and threaten to force them to perform sexual acts. Unseen customers beat up hustling teen boys. The police forcefully arrest protestors, who are also being violent toward the police and even light the club on fire.

Sex

Several scenes of kissing, hustling (performing sexual acts for money), and having sex. Most of the scenes are silhouetted or otherwise non-explicit, like when Danny sees that in a dark alley, dozens of couples are having sex. During oral sex scenes, the camera cuts to the face of the recipient. Partial nudity -- one scene shows a man naked from behind, and in other scenes men are shown stripped down to their underwear.

Language

Frequent use of strong language, including "f--k," "f---tard," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "motherf--ker," and many homophobic insults: "f----t," "dyke," "queen," etc. Also "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation.

Consumerism

Coca-Cola, Sprite.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults and teens drink and smoke and do drugs in the clubs, streets, and just hanging out in the Village.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stonewall is a fictional drama about the hustling, homeless street kids involved in the real-life 1969 riots in New York City that sparked the gay-rights movement. Given the "free love" vibe of the era it's set in, you can expect a lot of sex and language, from scenes of hustlers performing sex acts for money to same-sex couples kissing and making love. The sex scenes aren't explicit, but they occasionally include brief partial nudity from the side or back. Language includes plenty of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and anti-gay slurs. It's worth noting that members of the LGBTQ community have criticized the film and its director, Roland Emmerich (who is gay), for focusing the movie on a fictional straight-seeming white gay teen instead of on actual people involved in the Stonewall riots.

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What's the story?

In the summer of 1969, Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine), a fresh-faced high-school graduate from small-town Indiana, arrives in New York City with two things in mind: to find a place to stay until he can move to Columbia University, where he's set to start in the fall, and to visit the city's famed gay neighborhood of Greenwich Village. On Christopher Street, he meets Ray (Jonny Beauchamp), who introduces Danny to a crew of homeless hustlers who usually bunk half a dozen to a single room. Danny reveals that he didn't leave his hometown early for college -- he was kicked out after being caught "parking" with the hunky quarterback (Karl Glusman). Ray introduces Danny to the gay clubs he and his friends frequent, despite being underage, like the Stonewall Inn, which is owned by shady Ed Murphy (Ron Perlman), who's fine with raids that arrest his patrons as long as he gets off free. As Danny immerses himself in the neighborhood, he's drawn to a political activist (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who opens Danny's eyes to the gay-rights movement.

Is it any good?

Aside from a couple of standout performances, director Roland Emmerich's movie's weak script and inaccurate elements make it a wholly disappointing look at a key moment in gay-rights history. Instead of focusing on the actual events (or individuals) leading up to the Stonewall riots -- or their political significance -- the movie oddly concentrates on Danny, a fictional, straight-seeming character who seems utterly confused about what it means to be gay or in the big city. Obviously he's meant to be the audience's introduction into the circle of gay street youths on Christopher Street, but it's his immediate bestie, Ray, who steals the show. Beauchamp's hustler is infinitely more compelling than bland Danny.

Good for Emmerich, the openly gay action/adventure specialist, for trying, but he's basically failed to create the kind of human-interest-meets-social-justice historical drama that made Selma, Milk, or even the indie British film Pride so memorable. Most audiences unfamiliar with the specifics of the Stonewall riots and what they meant to the LGBT community will likely be fooled into thinking that a corn-fed, college-bound white boy instigated the entire protest, or that the police were really trying to help. Rhys Meyers and Perlman look like they're having fun playing a serious activist and a villainous club owner, respectively, but they have little to do. This is Danny's film, and because of that, Stonewall is more of a coming-of-age and coming-out story than a thought-provoking look at the riots that sparked the beginning of the gay-rights movement.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of historical dramas about human rights. What story does Stonewall tell about the history of gay rights in the United States? How does it compare to other movies you've seen about minority groups fighting for equal rights?

  • The movie has been criticized for making the protagonist a straight-seeming white teen rather than one of the many actual trans or drag queens or hustlers of color involved in the riots. Do you think filmmakers should have more accurately depicted those who started the riots?

  • Why do you think filmmakers sometimes change the facts when making movies based on real-life events? How could you find out more about what really happened?

  • How does the movie's violence impact you compared to what you'd see in an action or horror movie? Why do different kinds of violence have a different effect on viewers?

Movie details

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