By itself this was not a good film, bordering bad; but as a film about a significant slice of history, it was truly offensive!
Roland Emmerich's personal film was poorly directed, badly written (by Jon Robin Baitz) withb poor characterisation, unfocused and, ultimately, messy. But most importantly, it did no favour to the people who were at the forefront of the Stonewall Riots, and those who followed after, like Harvey Milk, which led to the Supreme Court of USA to declare Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional and legalisation of same-sex marriage in the US in June 2015.
Leaving politics aside, for now, Emmerich and Baitz had no clear idea or vision about this film. Is it going to be a coming-out/of-age story or a film about gay rights? If it was the former, the exploration of which was juvenile and superficial at best. It really felt like they threw in every single gay/coming-out cliche that they could think of and laid it out there. Sometimes barely even coherently.
If Stonewall was about gay rights, then it fared even worse. It barely scratched the surface about the injustices and inequality, the turmoil and the struggle and the many facets that such a prickly topic can cover.
The one good thing about Stonewall was that it reminds people. or - cynically - enlightened many, the true meaning of Pride Parades.
Well, make it two good things, for the second thing it did right was that it reminded us that Jeremy Irving has the potential to be a star.
Poor Irving was wasted here, paraded as just another pretty all-American country boy (even though the boy is English). Do not forget that he was "discovered" by Steven Spielberg, and despite having been 4 years past since War Horse, it is heartening to know that he still has that talent that we spied in him back then. Luckily for us, it was all thanks to him that the film was not all that bad. His scenes with his family, especially with his on-screen sister, were easily the best of the whole film and effectively elicited the emotional sympathy and empathy.
Johnny Beaucamp, you are lucky we have Penny Dreadful to remind us that you are more than just an Amy Winehouse wannabe.
And now, a bit about the politics
This film would have been a lot better if the Stonewall Riot was used as a setting. What it depicted instead was a senseless riot that was triggered off because a boy got cheated on. It was not about inequality or injustice, it was because of a broken heart. And the whole riot itself lasted 10 - 15 minutes tops. There was no exploration of the fallout from it and in the end, we ask ourselves what was the real purpose of all that?
I understand that this was a personal film from Emmerich, and maybe Baitz too, but they really did not do justice to the subject matter. And the grammar over the opening credits was atrocious!
This was the closing film of Singapore's 7th Love & Pride Film Festival 2015, and I think it was abhorrent, and selfish, for the organisers to have this film in its line up, much less its closing film.