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Stonewall

dir. Nigel Finch 1995 UK 98 min

Loosely based on Martin Duberman's non-fiction book Stonewall, the film follows the lives of a half dozen gay New Yorkers in the weeks leading up to the infamous riots at the Stonewall Inn. Arriving on a Greyhound bus, Matty Dean, young, gay, and full of dreams, is ready to begin an incredible adventure, one that even he cannot anticipate. He quickly finds his way to the Stonewall Inn - not exactly a "gay" bar, but a bar where drag queens and other homosexuals could gather without too much fear of the police.

But Matty just happens to turn up on a night when the cops are on a routine harassment spree, and he ends up in jail, where he meets La Miranda, a young Peurto Rican drag queen. The two hit it off and become lovers - of sorts. Over the next few days, Matty meets the other drag queens who frequent the Stonewall, Mizz Moxie and Helen Wheels, and accompanies La Miranda to a military induction center where she is quickly rejected as a "Sexual Deviant". Matty's interest in the budding gay rights movement finds him at a meeting of the Mattachine Society where he meets Ethan, a handsome, somewhat confused, conservative homosexual dedicated to changing the system from within. Caught between two worlds, Matty opts for safety and, dressed in penny-loafers and a suit, accompanies Ethan to an ineffective gay rights demonstration in front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall. The tension increases until the warm June night in 1969 when the police carried out one too many raids on the Stonewall Inn.


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The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village gained legendary status when it was the scene of the gay-rights riots of 1969. Drag queens (and others) got mad and decided not to take it anymore, fighting back when forced into a confrontation with police. The place and the event deserve better than STONEWALL (Strand) the movie, sort of a MIDNIGHT COWBOY meets OUTRAGEOUS. The US/British coproduction is mostly banal and unconvincing in its recreation of a place and an era. It does exhibit some affection for the characters, but the script has no balls, so to speak. Matty is a fresh-faced, well-scrubbed country boy just arrived at Port Authority in NYC. He gets involved with a Latin drag queen, LaMiranda, but is tempted by the white-bread activist Ethan. Bustonia is a flamboyant black transvestite with an impressive set of biceps. Her boyfriend is Vinny, a Mafia affiliate who is involved in the mob's control of the bars. Vinny is convinced that if Bustonia just has a sex-change operation, she will be perfectly acceptable to take home for an introduction to his old-fashioned Italian mama. Ah, love.
--Jim Byerley