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The Laramie Project
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Laramie Project (TV) More at IMDbPro »

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27 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

A murder in Wyoming

8/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
2 November 2005

A young gay man brutally killed by two young men trying to make a point about their hatred of homosexuals is the basis of Moises Kaufman's brilliant play seen here a few years ago. On the stage the play is somewhat detached because of the limitations in the text, but as a film, adapted for the screen by Mr. Kaufman, the immediacy of the story is more shocking than in the theater.

"The Laramie Project" is seen in a documentary fashion. The director and his assistants went to Laramie to investigate the incident that caused a world wide uproar because of the savage way Matthew Shepard's death had caused. In recreating the facts, Mr. Kaufman has dramatized the story by having real actors play the different people in town with whom he and his collaborators talked during the days of the research trip.

What comes out about the story is that individually, the citizens of Laramie were as shocked as everyone else was. After all, they considerer themselves as pretty tolerant, so why a horrible tragedy like this could ever happened amongst them? In fact, it only takes a pair of misguided individuals, who think thought they would make a statement by inflicting on the unsuspecting Matthew Shepard a punishment he didn't deserve.

The ensemble cast that play the different parts is an inspired choice. Mr. Kaufman was lucky in amassing such talent that respond so well to his commands. Steve Buscemi, Camryn Manhein, Laura Linney, Amy Madigan, Frances Sternhagen, Christina Ricci, Margo Martindale, Kathleen Chalfant, Terry Kinney, just to name a few, give excellent readings about what really occurred in Laramie.

Ultimately, Mr. Kaufman makes his point by just letting the citizens of Laramie come to terms with the horrible tragedy that shook their town.

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27 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Very important and moving

10/10
Author: jessreed
7 January 2003

I knew when I first heard about the project to put The Laramie Project on-screen that I wanted to see it. I knew, too, that I would find it moving and touching and probably a bit depressing. What I did not know, however, is that it would remind me of my own responsibility to live out loud and honestly. I remember being numb to Matthew Shepherd's death at the time it occurred, thinking how this is just one person out of the thousands whose similar experiences are never heard, so what makes him so special.

What I realized while I watched the film is that it is precisely because he is no more special than other human being that makes his story important, because it could be any gay person's story, even any minority person's story, and whatever draws attention to matters of hate and violence in the name of fear is crucial to the fight for equality of all people.

I realized while watching this film that I let loved ones in my life get away with language that I wouldn't take from a stranger, ignorant comments about how I don't make them uncomfortable because I don't "flaunt my gayness." Seemingly harmless words like "live and let live" are really saying "I will live however I want, and you can live however you want as long as I don't have to hear about it."

The Laramie Project reminded me how precious freedom is and how puritan this supposedly free country still is. I wish this film would become a part of school curriculum, part of office training on sensitivity--it should be viewed by everyone of both sides of the "gay issue." I hope it serves to change some minds.

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25 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

A Moving Film

8/10
Author: dmgoehring from Laramie, WY
29 November 2002

It took me a long time until I finally rented the DVD version of this. I live in Laramie, I go to the University. I didn't arrive here until 2000, but I was, and always have been, a Wyoming resident. Part of me was curious, especially with the actors involved, but another part realized how close to home this was. How close? My drama teacher Lou Anne Wright played Matthew Shepards mother (albeit uncredited).

When I first started watching this I was really confused. If they were taking a documentary approach, why in the hell would they then use real actors? As I sat and thought about it more, though, it made a bit more sense. The interviews were recorded only audibly at the time of the incident for the play version. You could sit down and reshoot it with the original citizens, but it would no longer feel natural. Plus I doubt they would've gotten all the people to consent to being filmed. Remember this is a small town and anonymity can go a long ways.

Aside from the acted documentary, I really felt they did a good job of trying to bring Laramie to life. Yes, they did focus a bit too much on the train tracks which are more or less out of town. I've only even seen them a few times in my 3 years here. They seperate Laramie from West Laramie. Not East Laramie from West Laramie, but Laramie from West Laramie, which should tell you something. Aside from that, it felt surreal to watch this. When I stepped outside my dorm afterwards to return it, I was staring right in the face of the hotel sign that at the time of filming read "Hate is Not a Laramie Value." I drove down third street and saw Laramie Lumber, I drove back on 4th and saw the antiquated Spic & Span Laundry. When they talk about how they drove past Walmart when they went out to kill him, I knew that road. I've driven home on that road many a time.

The characters were also extremely well-acted. For every character I saw portrayed on screen, I've known at least one Wyoming resident that was exactly like them. While some of the performances may have seemed extreme and hokey to some, I felt they had it down pat. I laughed to myself when Buscemi's character spelled out H-O-P-E for emphasis...I've heard the same silly thing done the same way by the same sort of people. Aside from "Live and Let Live" which I can honestly say I've never heard here in 20 years of WY residence (yet was emphasized over and over in the film), I've heard many of the same statements said almost verbatim by people I know.

The story, of course, is touching, but the route they went of making it the story of Laramie vs. the story of Matthew Shepard made it more than just a movie-of-the-week style thing. You can feel the emotions seeping through the screen. At the angel protest, I felt like jumping up and shouting down the bigoted guy leading the anti-gay side.

For its authenticity and heart-felt storytelling, I can't help but give this one a strong recommendation.

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15 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant and moving

Author: Jenna (flicker_and_fade) from USA
18 November 2004

An incredible movie that was brilliantly cast. I watched this movie my freshmen year of college and have revisited it time after time. There is never a lull in the movie--it hits hard and fast with character shifts and emotional dialogue that never sounds forced coming from the actors' mouths. It is the dialogue, transcribed from hundreds of hours of actual interviews with the people of Laramie, that gives this heinous crime a whole new dimension. Though the bigotry that is illustrated is hard to watch, as you observe the courage that certain people in the town showed, you might just find your faith in the human race restored. A must see for everyone.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Heart-Rending & Important

Author: sparklecat
28 December 2004

"The Laramie Project" is a film version of the play of the same name, culled from interviews with real residents of the town of Laramie, Wyoming in the wake of the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard. There are a lot of famous faces on hand (Steve Buscemi, Christina Ricci, Peter Fonda, Janeane Garofalo, Joshua Jackson, and many others), but the film's power comes from its story, not its stars.

Presented with the voices of Laramie - and ultimately, of America - one is forced to confront the realities of violence and hate in a way that is intense, even infuriating, but extremely worthwhile. An intelligent, complex, and very relevant piece of work.

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16 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Powerful, moving

10/10
Author: Wayne Malin (wwaayynnee51@hotmail.com) from United States
6 January 2003

Excellent cable movie dealing with the horrendous murder of gay Matthew Shepard in 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming. A theatre group went to the town and interviewed the citizens and came back with 400 hours of material. This became a play with actors playing the towns citizens. It's now been done as an HBO film with a top-notch cast playing the citizens. There are also reenactments of the trial of the two murderers and their convictions. This is definetely a strange film but totally fascinating with many powerful moments. The scene where Matthew Shepard's father addresses one of the killers of his son is gut-wrenching--it's hard to believe it's just an actor reading dialogue.

Previous posters have complained about not using the real townspeople talking. I don't think that's a valid argument--many of these people probably wouldn't want to appear on film and would they really want to go through recreations of the trial and the protests outside?

Also, there's not one bad acting job from anybody in the cast but special honors go to Camryn Manheim, Christina Ricci and Amy Madigan.

A powerful, painful film. A definite must-see for everybody.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

another worthwhile HBO movie..

7/10
Author: Embley from canada
14 August 2002

i was very impressed with this documentary-style tv movie. i appreciated the fact that the filmmaker took this approach, giving a sense (at least i hope) of the people on whom these interviews are based, while allowing a buffer zone so that the real people are not subjected to more publicity OR made to look stupid because of their personal beliefs. i thought it was a very wise approach to take and allows more of an unbiased POV in many ways than would a straight up documentary. not to say that this piece was unbiased - it wasn't - and i don't think it should have been. but the filmmaker did not take any low blows and that was refreshing. the way the whole piece was put together was different - i could feel the theatrical aspect coming in, the visuals were much more fractured than a standard tv movie, and i could REALLY appreciate that this was not just another murder story come to life on screen.

thank you for not doing a re-enactment of the crime! i think it was WAY more effective to hear it described by people. i found the laramie project to be horrifying and touching, and i wish more pieces were made that hit at such a gut level. i won't forget this movie.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Thoughtful, Stunning.

Author: SunRock17 from Boston, MA
10 September 2003

A work that is exceptional both in terms of its structure and in terms of the unique nature of the presentation. It brings into sharp focus many of the complex elements of a horror like this and the profound effects which it has on the many disparate participants.

The quality of the acting is superb evidencing a dedication to the material that goes beyond mere craftwork; many of the performances are obviously from the heart and the soul. Dylan Baker, Amy Madigan, Jeremy Davies, Peter Fonda, Joshua Jackson, and Camryn Manheim are stellar. The courtroom speech by Matthew's Father is historical. The direction is challenging and engaging.

It takes a truly cold, trite, and hardened heart to dismiss such a moving film predicated solely upon the prejudices, regressive political posturing, and obvious homophobia brought to such dismissals.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A Powerful Statement

8/10
Author: gftbiloxi (gftbiloxi@yahoo.com) from Biloxi, Mississippi
3 February 2008

Matthew Shepard was about two months short of his twenty-second birth when he was robbed, beaten, tied to a fence post and left to die in a rural area of Wyoming. The man who found him at first thought he was a scarecrow. Rushed to Poudre Valley Hospital at Fort Collins, he died on 12 October 1998--and when Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney were arrested for the crime they resorted to a defense known as "gay panic." Matthew Shepherd had propositioned them, they said, and they were so horrified that they killed him in response.

The gay community and numerous civil rights watchdog groups were outraged by the defense, and as more and more facts came to light it seemed that the crime was somewhat more complicated than Henderson and McKinney wanted the public to know. Witnesses stated that Henderson and McKinney had specifically targeted Shepherd because he was gay. After much legal wrangling, Henderson pled guilty and testified against McKinney, who was convicted; after still more legal wrangling, and at the request of Shepherd's parents, McKinney escaped the death penalty but has no chance of parole.

The case made headlines from end of the United States to the other and prompted numerous calls for Hate Crimes legislation, which had long been stalled both at the state and federal level. And in the midst of the confusion, chaos, and controversy, Moises Kaufman and the members of The Tectonic Theatre Project arrived on the scene, interviewing more than two hundred people about their thoughts and feelings on the case. These were shaped into THE LARAMIE PROJECT, a drama that debuted in 2000 and which has since shocked, impressed, and deeply moved audiences from coast to coast.

On the stage, THE LARAMIE PROJECT is played by eight performers who enact the numerous interview subjects in a three act, three hour performance on a largely bare stage. When filmed by HBO in 2002, it was reduced in length by about half and each interview subject was performed by a different actor--some of them members of the Techtonic Theatre Project, some of them well-known actors such as Laura Linney and Peter Fonda. The result is indeed powerful... but not as effective as the stage version, for on film it tends be a series of readings by "talking heads," a sort of pseudo-documentary, rather than as a cohesive whole.

That said, the great difference between the film and the original script is one of balance. On stage, THE LARAMIE PROJECT takes no sides per se; it simply sets forth the words and allows the audience to judge. On screen, it is distinctly slanted, cutting much of the commentary that gave the original such remarkable balance. Even so, and although far outstripped by the stage version, it is a powerful voice for equality, tolerance, and simple human decency. Recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

See the play

7/10
Author: oalvarez-2 from New York City
27 March 2006

While this film is very powerful for those unfamiliar with the incident and/or the play, I think it loses quite a bit of the depth that the stage version has. The play is a sparkling piece of experimental theater that invariably is produced by small ensembles taking on six to ten roles each. The set is minimalist, usually containing no more than a few chairs and a table. When you take away the visuals, and you take away the famous actors, what are you left with? The words. I think that the movie version takes away from that, with the flashy camera angles and editing. The characters (as they became in the movie; they are more true-to-life in the play) were pretty well-portrayed in the movie, with some disappointing exceptions (Jedediah Schultz, for example). The story still gets through, and you still understand that this is an issue of enormous gravity. But I reiterate my opinion that the play is much better.

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