‘Stonewall’ Review | The Worst ‘Quantum Leap’ Ever

Stonewall is the story of an important historical event, told from the perspective of someone who doesn’t exist but who gets to take all the credit anyway. To that end, as the companion who sat next to me in the theater so succinctly articulated, this movie only makes sense as an episode of Quantum Leap. But if you have any trouble pretending that Jeremy Irvine is really Scott Bakula, and that a holographic Dean Stockwell is telling him that weepy alleyway blow jobs are necessary to repair the timeline, then Stonewall is merely insulting as hell.

Directed by Roland Emmerich, a director not known for his subtlety, Stonewall tells the story of the very real 1969 riots that helped jumpstart the modern gay rights movement. For homosexuals in New York, and just about everywhere else, persecution was a matter of daily bureaucratic routine. (And still is, yes, but it was even worse in the ’60s.) A public outcry was perhaps inevitable. But who knew that the riots only broke out because a fictional audience surrogate wanted to get revenge on his philandering boyfriend? 

Jeremy Irvine plays Danny, a midwest cliché of astounding proportions, sent running from his sun-dappled family farmhouse after fellating the local quarterback, and into a posse of homosexual stereotypes who would have been deemed “a little much” for early episodes of In Living Color. There, Danny discovers that life is actually really hard for homeless gays, but from the safe perspective of an outsider who will soon leave the streets and take advantage of his college scholarship. The gay lifestyle is regularly explained to him by a cast of token characters who represent nearly every aspect of the 1960s gay experience, and who hold his hand and give him gifts and constantly let him know that he’s perfect.

As audience surrogates go, Danny is pathetic. The character’s very existence implies an intense lack of faith in anyone watching Stonewall. The filmmakers assume that each and every one of us is so clueless about the gay experience that we don’t even know what The Wizard of Oz is, so even that is explained to us on multiple occasions. And when filmmakers assume you’re stupid, or when anyone else does for that matter, it’s hard not to resent them for it.

Stonewall is pro-gay propaganda that has been produced with the same insulting condescension as anti-gay propaganda, and while that’s technically better than the alternative it still completely sucks. The real and fascinating figures who populated the Stonewall riots are demoted to cameos in their own life stories, in favor of a handsome white everyman who only just got there and hasn’t even remotely earned the right to throw the first brick. 

And yes, to those who protest, we don’t know who really threw the first brick. But it sure as hell wasn’t someone Roland Emmerich made up to make white heterosexual audiences feel more comfortable. 

[Editor’s Note: For all you Quantum Leap fans out there, you may want to check out the ninth issue of the Innovation comic book series, in which Sam actually was at the Stonewall riots. Oh yeah… it’s canon.]

Images via Roadside Attractions

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.