Stonewall

on July 26, 1996 by Lea Russo
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   A fictionalization of the 1969 gay civil rights riots in New York City, "Stonewall" is less a history lesson than a sermon. But regardless of its political pontifications, the film manages to be lively, poignant, and heartbreakingly sad.
   After a scuffle with the police at a gay bar named Stonewall Inn, activist Matty Dean (Frederick Weller) spends the night in jail, where he meets drag queen LaMiranda (Guillermo Diaz). They become lovers. When Matty meets conservative Ethan (Brendan Corbalis) at a Mattachine Society gay liberation meeting, he's torn not only between beaus. In his battle for sexual freedom, Matty must fight Ethan's small-minded bigotry, LaMiranda's apathy, the Mattachine Society's conformist attitudes, and of course, society itself.
   "Stonewall" is most compelling when examining prejudice within the homosexual community. There are gay men who hate drag queens, gay men who are homophobic, gay men who hate liberal homosexuals, and, for each viewpoint offered, a counterpoint offered as well. At its best, the film is not so much about the struggle against a heterosexual society as the problems of conflicting drives and attitudes within a community--any community. It's far from perfect, it won't make history, and those with high hopes may be disappointed, but "Stonewall" has a strongly beating heart. Sometimes, that's enough.    Starring Guillermo Diaz, Frederick Weller, Brendan Corbalis, Duane Boutte and Bruce MacVittie. Directed by Nigel Finch. Written by Rikki Beadle Blair. Produced by Christine Vachon. A Strand Release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 98 min.
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