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|Index||74 reviews in total|
into reality. Many previous reviewers have delineated the basic theme,
as well as the excellent cast. After having seen this several times,
however, I sincerely hope my review will also be read, as I wish to
credit Moises Kaufman on his play, and smooth translation into film.
The cast does not overpower the true story, which is a difficult feat
When you see the car scene wherein Matthew Sheppard is being taken to the scene of his murder, it is quite chilling. The contrast of man's inhumanity to man against the beauty of the Laramie, Wisconsin landscape is stark and true. There is no melodrama here, just reality and the sad story which needs telling.
The division of classes amongst college students and "townies" is shown in realistic fashion. The sad fact is this exists on most campuses, to a lesser degree, of course. The group mentality and proliferation of hatred and violence which precluded this murder are examined, as well as the townspeople's reactions to it. We see Stockard Channing and Sam Waterston as the bereaved parents, Peter Fonda as the weary physician, Janeane Garofalo as a lesbian, feeling afraid for her life. Christina Ricci and Clea Duvall also do very well, as a younger generation disrupted by violence. We also see Laura Linney, always credible, as a Laramie resident angry that the murder receives too much media attention.
Overall, this is a complex and tragic subject which deserves much more attention. Highly recommended.
Throughout this movie I kept thinking why on earth did they make this as a
"documentary," yet not include real footage of the people who were
interviewed? Sure, it would have been just like any other documentary, but
then it would have been up to the film makers to find the meaning for the
movie to deliver.
Using a host of well known movie stars (many of whom apparently asked to be in it) to portray "real" people gave me the feeling that there was a pre-determined message to be delivered, and the director was so intent on it that real people couldn't be trusted so actors and rehearsed scenes were used. (Yes, I know this was also a play, but a documentary should be a documentary.) I really found myself getting put off by the various stars, and kept expecting one of them to drop character for a moment and say "I'm a good person because I'm in this."
This movie could have had a much more powerful social commentary had it been more objective or let us see Matthew Shepard and his murderers as people rather than symbols. (The much superior "Boys Don't Cry" had an unflinching view of those involved--good and bad.) Instead The Laramie Project gives an almost relentless lecture that someone's sexuality should be accepted regardless, and little else.
On October, 7th, 1998, two local men from the town of Laramie Wyoming, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, kidnapped a young student named Matthew Shepard with the intend to rob and assault him. Not content to pistol whip, torture and beat him senseless, they tied him to a fence in a remote area and left him to die. Five days later Matthew passed away. This insightful movie called " The Laramie Project " was written and directed by Moises Kaufman for the stage, but has been converted to the silver screen. The film is a compilation of interviews ostensibly expressing the regret and sorrow of the townspeople. To give it a more professional appearance, Kaufman substituted professional actors like Peter Fonda, Clancy Brown, Steve Buscemi and Dylan Baker for the more vocal residents. The movie is shot Documentary style but does contain many of the original statements, quotes and speeches given by the actual townsfolk. The end result is a compelling story of a 21 year old being murdered for his sexual orientation. However, the one aspect I found wanting were the interviews NOT heard. Too often, those bigoted or biased individuals gave their artificially sympathetic opinions ON Camera, but what would they have said Off camera, where they would have been more honest about what they believed. Nevertheless, the legacy of Matthew did not receive closure in Wyoming for years. Indeed his case would have to wait until 2009, when President Obama signed a Federal law making it as a hate crime. Something the spineless citizens of Wyoming have been unable to do. A good film for a conscience seeking audience. ****
The film was well-done. It looked beautiful and was well-acted. Having
seen the play, I was impressed to see that the film project took on a life
of its own and did not come across simply as a play on film.
I must say that in the end, I hungered for more info on the 5-member team that went to Laramie, and on their reactions and motivations for writing the play/film. As is, the writer/director has chosen to let the events and the people of Laramie to speak for themselves. This is effective, but leaves the film as nothing more than a pseudo-documentary, or a re-enactment.
If you choose to make a film out of these powerful words and events, I would love to hear more from the company members about why they wrote the play, what they feel we need to overcome as a country to prevent the kind of hatred and separatism that led to the event, and exactly what role they feel art (and more specifically, this project) can play in that growth.
Maybe I'm just asking them to spoon-feed me my "lesson", instead of trusting me to draw the messages out of the film myself.
In any case, I congratulate all involved (HBO, Good Machine, Sundance, etc) for taking a chance on this important and unique film. I hope to hear from the Tectonic Theatre Company again soon.
This screened at Sundance last night to a receptive if mute crowd. Clearly the story is worth relating, it's powerful and true, but did the director have to cast every single role with a recognizable face? I mean, really, you spend have your time saying "Oh look, it's the guy from 'Armageddon'", or "Hey, it's Easy Rider!" and you lose sight of the story. Perhaps it's the only way this guy could get his movie made, but it's a little distracting, sort of like 'The Love Boat", or those old Towering Inferno movies, that were 'chock o' block with stars!'. I wish he's just told the story simply with less famous faces. Also, the camera work seems kind of lazy, like there wasn't any thought about where to put the camera to best tell the story. All in all, I thought it was okay, but could have been really good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Laramie Project is a film rendition of a play by Moises Kaufman.
This play was generated with the assistance of ten members of the
Tectonic Theater Project who went into Laramie, Wyoming and conducted
two hundred interviews with all types of people of all ages,
occupations and opinions from Laramie. The interviews consisted of
their opinions and reactions to the events that occurred regarding a
young man named Matthew Shepard. On October 6th, 1998, Matthew Shepard,
a twenty-one year old student at the University of Wyoming, received
what he thought was just a friendly ride home but in actuality turned
out to be the beginning of the end of his life. The two young men who
offered him the ride, Laramie residents Aaron McKinney and Russell
Henderson, drove Matthew into the middle of a field and proceed to beat
and torture him and then left him there to die, tied up to a fence.
Matthew was found the next morning however, by then it was too late, he
was permanently in a coma and died a few days later in a Colorado
hospital. Matthew was an openly gay man and this crime is thought to be
motivated by his sexuality and both McKinney and Henderson's distaste
for homosexuals leading it to be tried in the court as a hate crime.
I believe that watching this film as a bisexual woman allowed me to see this film through a different lens where I pick up on certain topics that otherwise may have gone unnoticed. First and foremost, my favorite part of this film is its real and raw genuineness. Majority of films based on historical events are embellished upon and words are changed around to create a certain mood or create a better or more appealing film but the Laramie Project is reenactments of interviews in which the recordings of the interviews themselves are used as the scripts. Very few words are changed like when Reggie mistakenly says "ATZ" instead of "AZT" when speaking about her preventative medication, they did not correct it as to stay true to the words of the people. One could critique that this film has some slow scenes but I do not judge these scenes because it demonstrates the reality rather than embellishment that makes this film so good.
This film does not portray a lot of gay people since they were getting a wide variety of people to interview however, they did have a few. Where viewers can best see Laramie's opinions towards gay people is when the camera is focusing on the members of the Theater Project such as when they were sitting in the diner and their reaction to their waitress as well as the encounter that cast member Amanda Gronich had with the reverend outside when she stated her disbelief in his comments and how she could let him say such a thing to her. This film did portray many examples of allies which, as a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I found to be very powerful. Both the "Angel Action" protest and the homecoming parade when it grew to be at least five times the size of the group that started the parade because people continued joining in in order to support and stand with each other in honor of Matthew.
Overall, to me this film was extremely powerful and thought provoking. It did not leave me with a feeling of guilt in a 'I could do more to help those around me' but rather challenged me to first off, be careful, because being a member of the LGBTQ community is not always the safest when you are open about it because there are many people out there who do not believe that it is right. Secondly, it served as a call to action to be an ally, which I think can be shown to any person despite their sexual preferences or walks of life in order to encourage everyone to be there and support those in their community who need it most. Thirdly and finally, this film made me begin to think more into the legal system and politics regarding LGBTQ rights and what types of laws can come about to serve justice to people who commit such crimes such as anti-discrimination legislation or hate-crime punishment which is not something I was not well versed in prior to seeing this film. Grade = A-
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember hearing of the Matthew Shepard murder in October 1998 but
didn't really know very much about it, only it seemed to stem from his
being homosexual. This film, a dramatization in documentary approach,
fills in most of the gaps.
Shortly after the incident a group led by Moisés Kaufman and including members of New York's Tectonic Theater Project, several of them also homosexuals, went to Laramie, Wyoming, where the kidnapping and murder happened. Their focus was to interview as many of the locals they could, including pastors, teachers, and medical staff. They wanted to piece together the puzzle of why this happened when it did and where it did.
It was originally an HBO film and never having HBO myself only had a chance to see it now by getting the DVD from my local public library. It is very well made and actors, most of them experienced and well- known, play the parts of the out-of-towners and the townspeople who were interviewed.
Included is a dramatization of the trials of the two young men responsible for the kidnapping and murder, each resulting in two consecutive life sentences.
Hard to watch at times because of the content but overall well made and worth a viewing.
The Laramie Project and the death of Matthew Shepard probably affected
me a bit different than others. When he died in October of 2002 I was
still working at New York State Crime Victims Board as an investigator
and the only openly gay one they ever had. Across my desk I handled
several hundred LGBT crime victims of all kinds including some that
were bias attacks and some that ended fatally like Matthew's attack
did. In those fatalities any one of those could have become our first
national gay martyr. In fact right now as I write this I went back and
did some research for an article I wrote on the late Winthrop Bean
whose case for a variety of reasons never got the attention it should
back in 1983.
So what was it that made Matthew Shepard the first gay bias homicide victim to receive national attention? My belief was the visual of that fence on a lonely road where he was hung like a scarecrow and left to die after a vicious beating just grabbed the media's attention. And the fact that Matthew was as described barely 5' 2" in height and soaking wet might weighed 110 pounds. I was not much heavier than he at that age although a good deal taller. How could a little kid like that hurt anyone, to whom was he a threat?
The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman is based on a series of interviews that the author did and from that wrote his docudrama play and several Hollywood names lent their talents to it. And it was shot on location in Laramie, a town like the other large cities in Wyoming that owned its existence to the Union Pacific railway.
For better or worse Laramie will forever be associated with Matthew Shepard's murder. Just like Harlingen, Texas is associated with the dragging death of James Byrd and Scottsboro, Alabama with the Scottsboro boys and their trial. People there wondered why such a thing can happen, but some of their own answers belied the reasons why.
I remember in 1998 when all the large cities in America had Matthew Shepard vigils. I was in one in Buffalo and a good friend was there had actually gone to the University of Wyoming in Laramie and told me when he went there he never had a problem. Of course he also said he was most discreet while there.
My favorite moment in the play was Camryn Manheim when she declared how happy she was that Aaron McKinney said that it was about homosexual panic, how dare Matthew Shepard come on to him. Poor stupid McKinney, all he had to say is I don't go that way or just push all 5'2" of Matthew away from him if he got physical. But that's how he and Russell Henderson were brought up, it's what you do with gays who have the effrontery to think you're one of them. She was concerned that he'd try to get out of it by saying it was just a robbery gone bad or something else to lessen the bias edge. But McKinney confessed and thought he was justified. Not even in Wyoming when the whole world is watching.
Since 1998 civil rights laws, gay inclusive hate crime laws, and even LGBT marriages in several states have passed. A lot of that is due to the national conscious awakening of anti-gay bias and how it can lead to tragedy. And the fact that LGBT people aren't going away until they've received full legal, economic, and social equality. A fact a lot of our opponents just will not grasp.
Matthew in your short life you accomplished more than you could ever have realized. RIP little one.
As for The Laramie Project this film is a must see for audiences, especially young audiences.
The murder of young gay man Matthew Shepard shocked America in 1998.
Less noted immediately was the response of Laramie's populace. Moisés
Kaufman's play "The Laramie Project" focuses on this. The play consists
of interviews conducted with citizens of Laramie in the wake of the
murder and subsequent prosecution of the perpetrators.
Kaufman also directed the movie version. It shows how the people of Laramie had never wanted to think of their town as a bastion of hate, but it is now known almost exclusively for Matthew Shepard's murder. One of the most revolting instances during the ordeal was when Fred Phelps brought picketers to shout "God hates fags".* All in all, this should serve as an example not only of the horrendous things that hate can drive people to do, but also of how no person can every totally know his/her community. I definitely recommend it.
In a more recent development, attacks based on sexual orientation are now legally classified as hate crimes.
*More recently, members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funeral of Christina Green, the girl killed in the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords.
I live in Cheyenne, WY, a short 45 minute drive from the beautiful
small town of Laramie. Unfourtanitly, after the murder of Matthew
Sheppard, we are seen as a heavily Conservative hate-state. This is
absolutely false. We are, for the most part, a very accepting and
tolerant state. While we do have a very Conservative/Republican
population, as well as a large Mormon population, we are not a hate
With that said, this was an eye opening film. It truly shows the problebms we have with tolerance and hatred towards homosexuals these days. If we can learn anything from these tragedies, it should be that tolerance towards homosexuals is of utmost importance. Also, love can heal every would. Mrs. Sheppard's foregiveness towards the murderes is a great example.
By the way, I am a Catholic. Jesus did not hate anyone. Keep that in mind.
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