Stonewall (1995)

 

 

Director:     Nigel Finch.

Starring:      Guillermo Daz (La Miranda),  Fred Weller (Matty Dean),  Brendan Corbalis (Ethan),  Duane Boutte (Bostonia),  Bruce MacVittie (Vinnie),  Peter Ratray (Burt),  Dwight Ewell (Helen Wheels),  Matthew Faber (Mizz Moxie),  Michael McElroy (Princess Ernestine),  Luis Guzmn (Vito),  Joey Dedio (Angelo),  Tim Artz (Plainclothes Cop).

fictional story highlights events of the Stonewall Inn riots of June 27, 1969 in New York City starting the modern Gay/Lesbian/ Bisexual/Transgender movement

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.  And some curse words that are spelled out.  .

The film begins with some background history of the plight of the homosexuals that brought about the Stonewall riot in 1969. 

This is the story of one drag queen at Stonewall.  Three drag queens get on the subway  Their appearance upsets an elderly couple across from them.  The three make silly faces at them and so the couple moves.  On the streets homosexuals are handing out fliers and they are asking for people to march on Philadelphia for homosexual rights. 

The three and another guy knock on the door of a club.  Vito lets them in, but objects to the one in street clothes because he has no I.D.  The drag queens say he's their ride and not to bother him.  Vito lets him go in.   The bartender, Ernestine, tells the fellow in street clothes that a man down at the other end of the bar wants to buy him a drink.  Sure.  The older guy comes over and thanks the new guy for accepting his offer of a drink.  One of the three drag queens is La Miranda. The newcomer is Matty Dean. The older man is August. 

The cops comes in to hassle the patrons and the bar.  They check everyone's I.D.  The policeman in plain clothes asks for a drink.  The owner comes in and welcomes the police.  The policeman see La Miranda at the end of the bar and goes to examine her face to make sure she is a guy.  When he's sure she's a guy, he tells her to go to the washroom.  La Miranda stills put so the police drag her over to a large bucket filled with dirty dish water, stick her head in it and hold it there.  She still doesn't go the the washroom.  Now the policeman asks for I.D.  Ernestine asks her why does she always put herself through this.  Matty Dean protests that La Miranda hasn't done anything wrong.  So the policeman punches Matty a couple of times and then the police take Matty and La Miranda to jail. 

In the jail cell Matty complains that the cop broke his nose.  La Miranda says ah, forget that.  They confiscated her pocketbook with her make up and that, she says, is real brutality.  Maty says how can the police get away with this?  Matty says they are the real American because at least they believe in real freedom.  He is so disappointed because he thought it would be different in New York City.  A drag queen named Bostonia bails the two out.  Bostonia tells Matty that she saw what he did and adds:  "It is not cool to give those motherfuckers any kind of excuse to put their hands on you."  Matty says maybe it's time that the police did some bleeding, instead of them. 

Bostonia lets them of at La Miranda's flat.  In her mail box she finds a draft notice.  She just comments that she has flat feet.  La Miranda gives Matty a place to stay for the night.  They talk about their sexual and family relationships.  La Miranda is shocked that Matty just came out and told his family that he was a homosexual.  She just can't believe it. 

Matty says he is going to a meeting of the Homophile Society;   a group of homosexual men working for liberation, acceptance and integration.  At the meeting a representative of the Daughters of Bilitis named Agnes Pugin is in attendance.  They are planning a march on Liberty Hall in Philadelphia.  They want everyone to wear suits and ties and have a nice haircut.  Agnes acknowledges that this dress code stuff is a drag, but this will be the first civil action of this kind and they want to make a good impression.  The ladies will wear skirts and blouses. 

The owner of the Stonewall Inn complains to the deputy chief of the cops that they are busting him too often.  He pays them their money, but he can't make any money himself at this rate.  The policeman says he will talk to the chief.  Bostonia comes in to complain about the two that were arrested and one of them beat up by the cops.  She and the boss kiss. 

One of the guys from the meeting shows Matty around New York.  The prostitutes work their street.  La Miranda reveals that she has a crush on Matty and she tells her friend all about what happened.  They see Matty and La Miranda, all smiles, runs over to him.  She introduces him to her two best girlfriends.  Miss Moxie and Helen Wheels.  They all take a taxi ride to a loft apartment.  The girls hold a ceremony as Jose becomes Camelia.  The hostess welcome to the life and then reminds him it's going to be a rough life, but one with benefits. 

At home Matty tells La Miranda that he would like to see her naked.  She says:  "I will if you will."  They both get naked.  La Miranda asks him if he wants to join the life?  He answers:  "I want to join you."  They kiss and have sex (off screen). 

La Miranda goes to the recruitment office.  They are shocked and send her around to room 17 in the back for psychological examination.  She is designated a sexual deviant and rejected. 

Matty tries to write lyrics for a protest song dealing with homosexuality, but La Miranda has to tell him it's too preachy.  A doctor speaks to the members of the Homophile Society.  He sounds really old fashioned these days.  What he says he so wrong and insulting that Matty starts to get offended.  He walks out of the meeting.   

Matty goes down with Ethan and the leader of the Homophile Society to talk with a reporter from the Voice Recorder, Randy.  The three of them pose for a photo.  With the press they go around to bars thinking they will be tossed out.  But with the press along everyone behaves themselves, making a lot of jokes about it.  The guys go to the Stonewall Inn.  They just want to get thrown out and Ernestine wants to throw them out because they deliberately said they were "self-confessed" homosexuals.  Ernestine tells Vito to throw these trouble-makers out!  Bostonia comes over and calms things down, so Matty has to tell her what they want  -- an official throw-out.  Ernestine says:  "The State Liquor Authority prohibits the selling of liquor to homosexuals.  Therefore, I regret I must refuse to serve you.  Happy, everybody?"  Randy and the photographer, having their story, leave.

La Miranda comes over to Matty.  They talk about the march on Philadelphia.  Matty tells Ethan that he and La Miranda are roommates and this infuriates La Miranda.  She leaves the place in a huff.  Matty goes after her and tells her he didn't say anything to her about it because they have such a strict dress code that he knew she couldn't go along with it.  La Miranda is not convinced.  Matty asks is it his fault that she doesn't know how to walk like a guy?  She get mad all-over again and leaves.

Bostonia dances with the leader of the Homophile Society.  He tells her that this is the first time he ever danced with a man.  Bostonia finds that hard to believe.  He says he's just been too busy just fighting for the right to dance that he never danced himself.  He says when they first started the Society 15 years ago there weren't three homosexuals who would openly say they were homosexuals.  Bostonia says that she salutes him for his work and he says that he is honored. 

Matty stays over with Ethan.  They kiss in the shower.  La Miranda is upset that Matty is not around. 

Bostonia and Vinnie the bar owner talk in a deserted parking lot.  He says there's a clinic in the building he is pointing to that has surgically turn her into a female.  Then they could marry.  He says he needs a wife to be a normal Mr. Everyday.  Vinnie says they ain't never going to let them be.  Bostonia agrees, but adds an operation sure won't change that. 

The guys and gals get on the bus to go to the march in Philadelphia. 

They march around in a circle in front of Liberty Hall with placards.  Going back on the bus Matty sings his protest song against homophobic laws and attitudes.  The people on the bus seem to like it.  They sing the chorus of "Battle Hymn of the Republic". 

Back home with Ethan Matty complains that their march was pretty much ignored.  How can they get more attention for their cause?  Ethan wants to take him to Fire Island for a few days, but Matty says he has to work.  Matty just doesn't seem happy any more. 

On the beach on Fire Island the police come out to hassle the homosexuals.  And any "suggestive" bathing suit has to be covered with a towel.  Ethan asks Matty to put his towel on. 

Judy Garland dies.  Bostonia is very sad as she watches the news of her death.  Vinnie comes in to console her.  He is going to take her out amongst folks.  He says he is coming out a little. 

Matt and Ethan go out dancing, but can't begin until a straight woman starts the dance.  But there are men who watch over the male dancers to keep them separated by the legal amount. 

At dinner out Vinnie and Bostonia cause quite a stir because the customers are disturbed.  Management asks them  to leave.  Vinnie gets so mad he overturns the table.  Bostonia throws some money at the waiter.  But they do leave the restaurant. 

Sitting on the beach Matty tries to kiss Ethan, but Ethan backs off.  He apologizes, but he can't help it because he has always had to look over his shoulder.   

Matty pays a visit to La Miranda.  Now she has her hair cut short like a man.  They get back together. 

Vinnie is in bed with Bostonia.  He shoots himself in the head, shocking, horrifying and devastating Bostonia. 

The funeral for Judy Garland is held.  She was only 47 years of age.  On this very day the police decide to raid the Stonewall Inn.  They start hassling and arresting a "selection" of the patrons.  One of the cops pushes and hassles La Miranda so much that she strikes him with her tow handcuffed fists.  Down goes the harasser.  So the cops through her to the ground and start beating and kicking her.  Some of the homosexuals in the crowd start jumping on the police to save La Miranda.  Another one picks La Miranda to get her away from the redneck cops.  The police have to pull back into the bar.  The crowd starts chanting:  "Gay power!  Gay power!"  They throw a trash can throw a bar window and start busting open the door with a home made battering ram. 

Cops on horses and in riot gear arrive.  The crowd resists and the police really start busting heads open.  The riot police stop advancing when a line of drag queens start singing to them

La Miranda says:  "Everyone has their own Stonewall legend.  That's mine. I maybe didn't get exactly every detail down perfect, but that's the story of my life, honey." 

 

 

Very enjoyable movie.  I got a kick out of it and I'm definitely heterosexual.  The movement for Gay Rights was partly an off-shoot of the broader fight for civil rights for blacks, women and gays.  The movie shows you how tough it can be to be homosexual, even though things are much better now than before Stonewall.  The film also describes the prejudice and discrimination facing homosexuals, especially before Stonewall.  And this is the value of historical films.  They make the viewer identify with the humanity of the characters and lets the audience feel some of their suffering.  The audience suffers when the minority persons are insulted, harassed, abused and violated. 

It is immoral to be prejudiced against and discriminatory to homosexuals as it is to all disadvantaged minorities.   Rednecks probably won't read this film plot summary and commentary, so I guess it's safe to say that it is they that should repent of their evil ways, not the minorities.  And don't those rednecks love to pick on the more vulnerable and weak! 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

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