Director Roland Emmerich is best known for apocalyptic action movies like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, but his new drama Stonewall is shaping up to be a calamity of a different type. After catching criticism for “whitewashing” a crucial moment in LGBT history, the fact-based drama about the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City is being panned by critics, many of whom find it well-meaning but poorly executed. (The film has a 6-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.) Here are excerpts from seven of the most scathing reviews.
1. “Stonewall is perhaps even worse than some feared it would be — more offensive, more white-washed, even more hackishly made. It’s so bad that it’s hard to know where to begin a catalogue of the film’s sins. … Aside from its offensiveness, Stonewall is, plain and simple, a terribly made movie.” —Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
2. “I think we need to file Emmerich’s Stonewall – a well-intentioned, profoundly silly and borderline insulting movie — under the category of Yeah That Happened or perhaps God Reminding Us We Are Idiots, and then forget it as soon as possible. Remember the Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher? Remember the Jimi Hendrix biopic with no actual Jimi Hendrix songs? No, you don’t, not really – and Stonewall will soon be consigned to that same oblivion.” —Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
3. “As well-intentioned misfires go, it’s difficult to imagine as disastrous a dud as Stonewall, an earnest dramatization of real-life events that winds up being as lamentably flat-footed as it is inexcusably inauthentic. … It’s a shame that the beginning of a movement that has come so far, so fast has been reduced to a trite, calculatingly manipulative reenactment.” —Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
4. “Emmerich seems eluded by the subject matter, despite obvious personal investment. The result appears to be haphazardly quilted from cut pieces; even the centerpiece riot — where Emmerich gets to exercise his yen for destroying iconic locations — is truncated.” —Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, A.V. Club
5. “Stonewall is so generally sludgy that you can’t imagine it appealing to anyone, gay, straight or otherwise. The characters don’t resonate, so their day-to-day problems don’t really strike a chord, either. Nor does the film ever establish a strong sense of time (anachronisms abound, starting with the haircuts) or place (this Greenwich Village always feels more like the set it is than like a location). —Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
6. “Roland Emmerich’s seriously misjudged Stonewall turns the transgender drag queens who helped change America into dress extras in what’s basically a Big Apple retelling of The Wizard of Oz revolving around a Caucasian gay man’s coming of age. … Emmerich — a hugely successful director of disaster movies who happens to be gay — deserves credit for trying to call attention to the plight of gay homeless youth in this self-financed, if seriously flawed, labor of love. But with thinly drawn characters, uneven performances and tin-eared dialogue, Stonewall plays at best like a musical without the songs.” —Lou Lumenick, New York Post
7. “In a way, Stonewall is proof that the gay community has fully made the transition to the mainstream. It’s now subject to the kind of Hollywood nonsense that was previously reserved for heterosexuals.” —Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Stonewall opens Friday. Watch the trailer above.