“There are as many Stonewall stories as there are queens in New York and that is a ****load of stories.” So begins the movie “Stonewall” (Fox Lorber Films), a noble attempt to tell the story of the incident that triggered gay liberation. Who could have ever imagined that a bunch of drag queens would bring to life the movement to win equality for gays and lesbians. After a long period of police raids and harassment as well as brutality, a group of men wearing dresses began to riot when the police tried to put them in paddy wagons. “La Miranda” or Hector is the narrator of this film and was a regular customer at the Stonewall Inn. He recounts the events that led up to the day when gay history changed its course, Miranda meets Matty Dean at the Inn and he immediately fall sin love. Then there is “Bostonia”, the queen mother of the dragsters who introduces each to the pay to peaceful integration into drag society and Vinnie, her lover, the closeted proprietor of the bar. He, in an indirect way, is responsible for the riots according to this screenplay as he voices the suffocation he feels from the pressure of a homophobic world. However, while you watch this film, you must remember that this is Miranda’s story—entertaining but not altogether factual. Miranda is fictional and this is a film about Miranda and friends and how they got through the days surrounding the Stonewall riots
The movie is set in 1969 when homosexuality was illegal and drag could get a person sent to jail. Police brutality was the rule of the day and the movie shows that brutality and tells the story in a straightforward way through the mouths of loveable characters. The performances are strong and emotional with no big name stars ad succeeds in telling one version of the Stonewall legend. This is a movie that went unnoticed at the box office when it came out but has since gathered a group of loyal fans who watch it over and over again.
Those who know about Stonewall know that the people that participated in the riots did not only do it for themselves but so that all of us could live free. They gave their all for us and are deserving of the title of heroes.
Personally I have great admiration for those who did what they did but I would have preferred a more factual movie. But this is what we have and perhaps it is fiction but it is good entertainment. What is missing from the film is the feeling of relief and exhilaration that swept gay America in 1969. That same year was Woodstock and that men walked on the moon; the same year that a film that was rated X won the Oscar and dealt with a gay subplot and the year the Mets won the World Series. More important is it was the year that we claimed ourselves and stopped hiding. It was America’s “coming out” party.
The cast is excellent in the film, the photography is crisp and clean, the soundtrack makes you want to dance and the screenplay is literate. This is our film, our story and I doubt that anyone who sees it won’t love it. It is a slick production and as you watch it you will feel that you are building a friendship with the actors. You hate for it to end because it means that Matty Dean, La Miranda, and Bostonia are no longer in your life. Matty Dean is so cute you just want him to move in).
This is a film that every gay person should see and when they do perhaps our rights will not be taken so much for granted. “Stonewall” will give you a feel for what it was like in 1969 and how things were. You want to scream at the screen “Never Again” and if you do you will feel so much better.