Stonewall (1995 film)
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Stonewall is a 1995 British-American historical comedy-drama film directed by Nigel Finch, his final film before his AIDS-related death shortly after filming ended. Inspired by the memoir of the same title by gay historian Martin Duberman, Stonewall is a fictionalized account of the weeks leading up to the Stonewall riots, a seminal event in the modern American gay rights movement. The film stars Guillermo Díaz, Frederick Weller, Brendan Corbalis, and Duane Boutte.
While the film is a work of fiction, Finch makes the unusual directorial choice of including documentary-style interview footage with several people who were at the Stonewall Inn during the uprising. Finch also intersperses lip synch numbers performed by the actors throughout the film to function as something of a Greek chorus.
Matty Dean, a young gay man, arrives in New York City and heads for Greenwich Village. He falls in with crossdressing sex worker La Miranda and friends, who take him to Stonewall Inn. There is a police raid and Matty and La Miranda are arrested. They are bailed out by Bostonia, the African-American "mother" of the queens who hang out at Stonewall, and the secret lover of Vinnie, the deeply closeted mafioso who runs Stonewall. Matty and La Miranda go back to her place where she receives her draft notice. Matty attends a meeting of the Mattachine Society, where he meets Burt and Ethan. The group is planning a picket at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Ethan and Matty witness an initiation of sorts as a young man named José becomes the persona Camelia. After the ceremony they return to La Miranda's place and have sex.
Matty spends time with Ethan, who is a writer under a pseudonym for a homophile magazine. La Miranda reports to the induction center in full drag and is ordered to go for psychological evaluation. La Miranda is terrified because of former bad experiences with psychiatrists, so Matty dons her clothes and meets with the doctor in her place, securing a rejection from military service for her as a "sexual deviant." On the subway ride home, Matty tells La Miranda he loves her.
At a Mattachine meeting, Matty is disgusted by the guest speaker, a psychiatrist who discourses on the then-current disease model of homosexuality, and leaves. After the meeting Burt, Ethan and Matty argue about it on their way to meet with a reporter and photographer from the Village Voice newspaper. The group stages a "sip-in," trying to illustrate discriminatory alcohol service laws by being refused service but no one refuses to serve them until they go to Stonewall. At the bar La Miranda and Ethan meet and Ethan treats her mockingly. La Miranda realizes that Matty hasn't told his Mattachine friends about her and storms out. Matty follows and they argue about La Miranda's refusal to conform and Matty's feeling the need to be with more masculine men. Matty seeks out Ethan and they begin an affair.
Vinnie points out a clinic he calls the "Palace of Dreams" and tells Bostonia that he wants her to have sex reassignment surgery so that they can marry, but she is opposed to the idea.
Following the Philadelphia picket, Ethan takes Matty to Fire Island. Given the choice between Ethan's acceptance of discrimination and La Miranda's defiance, Matty chooses La Miranda and they reconcile.
It is the day of Judy Garland's death. Bostonia watches the television coverage. To cheer her up, Vinnie takes her out in full drag in public for the first time. They have ice cream at a fancy restaurant, their open affection drawing disapproving stares and are asked to leave by the manager.
As they wake up together the next morning, Vinnie asks Bostonia if he's ever told her that he loves her. She says no. Vinnie suddenly commits suicide with a bullet through the head and Bostonia becomes hysterical. Vinnie has left her a large amount of cash and scrawled "I LOVE YOU" on a mirror in lipstick.
That night at Stonewall there's another raid. Several of the queens are arrested, including Bostonia. She smashes a police officer in the face and is attacked by other cops. When other queens fight back, touching off the riots that would mark the beginning of the gay community's militant advocacy movement for its rights.
- Guillermo Díaz as La Miranda
- Frederick Weller as Matty Dean
- Brendan Corbalis as Ethan
- Duane Boutte as Bostonia
- Bruce MacVittie as Vinnie
- Peter Ratray as Burt
- Dwight Ewell as Helen Wheels
- Matthew Faber as Mizz Moxie
- Michael McElroy as Princess Ernestine
- Luis Guzmán as Vito
- Joey Dedio as Angelo