A fictionalized account of a subject widely covered in docu form, Stonewall takes its name from the legendary Greenwich Village gay bar and its dramatic cue from the 1969 riot in which drag queens took on New York cops during a raid on the premises, signaling the beginnings of the gay pride movement.
Factual basis for the film is Martin Duberman’s social history Stonewall. The script strikes a winning balance between pathos and comedy, juicing things up via some campy musical interludes.
The story centers on Matty Dean (Fred Weller), a handsome country boy who hits New York expecting a free-thinking gay paradise. He hooks up with LaMiranda (Guillermo Diaz), a sassy young drag queen and Ethan (Brendan Corbalis), a member of an ineffectual gay activist group. A third track follows neighborhood drag queen godmother Bustonia (Bruce MacVittie) and her secret relationship with the Stonewall’s owner, Vinnie (Duane Boutte).
Characters are affectionately drawn, as is the sense of community and solidarity. The film’s greatest strengths are its warmth and humor. The writing suffers mildly, however, from a second-act energy loss and is decidedly stronger in bringing the trash-glamour drag queen milieu to life.
Budgeted at less than $2 million, the pic is a resourceful, visually striking operation.