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|Index||74 reviews in total|
This isn't a film, nor is it a documentary. It's an adaptation of an incredible play, and it works beautifully. It has an amazing cast, but the real greatness of this movie is how close it stays to the play--and what's great about the play is how it uses the *exact* words of the people of Laramie. This isn't supposed to be a traditional film, and if you walk into it expecting that, you'll be disappointed. I rate this an absolute 10. Amazing.
"The Laramie Project" is based on a play by the same name written in
response to the vicious and senseless 1998 murder of 21 year-old Matthew
Shepherd, a gay man living in the town of Laramie, Wyoming.
The movie (and play) is not about the murder per se. Everything is set after those events. Instead, the focus is on the reaction of the townspeople to becoming the centre of attention because of this brutal murder. Filmed largely in a documentary style, the bulk of the "story" is told through a series of interviews conducted by those doing the research for the play with the locals. We see the whole range of feelings expressed. Some who hate gays; some who don't hate them but believe the lifestyle to be wrong; some who truly don't care one way or the other; and then there are those who are themselves gay. As we go through this whole range of responses to Matthew's death the movie is sometimes inspiring and sometimes distressing.
If you're looking for the gory details of the murder itself, you won't find them here - thankfully. The story is told in words, but the murder is never recreated or sensationalized in any way. The focus stays on the townspeople, and at the end we see the two accused - played by Mark Webber and Garrett Neergaard - as they react to their respective trials. The interview style adopted through most of the movie means that there isn't a lot of "excitement" in the conventional sense, but it is fascinating to see the various reactions to the murders. (The interviewees, of course, were actors playing the parts of the townspeople; perhaps the only thing that would have made the movie more "raw" would have been interviews of the actual townspeople.)
It's a good movie - thought-provoking if not exactly exciting - and certainly worth watching. Don't miss the powerful victim impact statement read to the court by Matthew's father Dennis (Terry Kinney.) Although he's seen throughout the trial scenes sitting in the courtroom, this was Kinney's only speaking part of the movie and he made the most of it, vividly portraying the pain and anger of a father at the murder of his only son.
It's definitely worth watching. 7/10
Having seen The Laramie Project on stage, where it reduced me to a
blubbering mess, I was very dubious about seeing the film version, with
famous actors playing the roles.
It was strange enough, seeing the play in Sydney, to accept Australian actors PLAYING American actors, playing the residents of Laramie. Now, it was celebrities.
But it worked much better than I expected. The film was shorter than the play, so some characters were severely reduced in stage/screen time, and some scenes disappeared altogether, or had the emphasis changed.
But I still ended up a blubbering wreck.
This film was one of the most concise, fearless, and moving
portrayals of the devastating effects of the Mathew Shepard killing
that I have yet seen. Perhaps the film's most striking attribute is the
originality with which its director chooses to tell the real life story.
This being his choice to use Hollywood actors to re-create interviews gathered in Laramie after Mathew's murder. Through the vast array of differing points of view, a complete picture is successfully painted which I believe not only gay and lesbian people, but people from every walk of life can connect to.
I sat through "Boy's Don't Cry" wholly involved emotionally, empathizing with the characters, feeling the horror, indignation, etc. On the other hand, I sat through "The Laramie Project" asking myself, "Who's that actor...oh, yeah, that's the guy from 'Happiness'" or "Jeeez, Garafolo's looking older"....etc. Bottom line; this film may have a noble purpose but it is entirely less efficacious than a drama or a real documentary. "TLP" is a misfire.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Dolby Digital
Following the murder of Matthew Shepard by a couple of homophobic thugs in the nondescript town of Laramie, Wyoming, a theatre troupe descends on the area and questions residents, politicians, doctors and police officers in an effort to probe the circumstances which led to this appalling crime.
When 21 year old Matthew Shepard was murdered by Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney in October 1998, it seemed like the culmination of a ceaseless conservative crusade against the so-called 'gay lifestyle' (whatever that means). For some, Matthew's death had been facilitated by the ongoing propagation of hatred which flourishes unchecked in every aspect of our daily lives, and which found its ultimate grim expression in the beating, torture and near-crucifixion of a virtually defenceless gay man. The killing prompted a national outpouring of grief and anger, fuelled by a media campaign that seemed more concerned with gaining mileage from a juicy story than challenging the attitudes which had given rise to this event in the first place. THE LARAMIE PROJECT - which began life as a stageplay created by the Tectonic Theater Project in New York, using the actual words of Laramie residents instead of 'dialogue' - attempts to redress the balance by probing the causes and consequences of bigotry, and the deep-rooted feelings of those most affected by the murder. It's a heartfelt debut from Tectonic founder and artistic director Moisés Kaufman.
Interviewees include friends and colleagues of Matthew, the investigating police officers, the doctors who cared for him during the coma which preceded his death, and those whose religious convictions appear to have clouded their judgment and humanity - in one appalling sequence, a mealy-mouthed reverend (Michael Emerson) expresses sympathy for the victim, whilst simultaneously hoping that Matthew spent his last conscious moments reflecting on his 'lifestyle'. Presented in mock-documentary format, in which the 'characters' are portrayed by an all-star cast of familiar faces (including Steve Buscemi, Amy Madigan, Laura Linney, Christina Ricci and Frances Sternhagen, amongst many others), Kaufman's film offers a platform to those on both sides of the debate, though the filmmakers' own liberal outlook is plainly obvious throughout. But, in taking a stand against fundamentalist attitudes, THE LARAMIE PROJECT seeks to demonstrate the flaws in extremist viewpoints. In other words, those with bigoted opinions are given enough rope to hang themselves, and some of them leap head-first into the noose. Thankfully, Fred Phelps and his satanic crew - who rubbed salt into a festering wound by protesting against 'fags' during Matthew's funeral - are reduced to little more than an unwelcome guest appearance, during which they're confronted by a host of silent, accusing townsfolk dressed as angels...
Reluctant to shrink from uncomfortable truths, the film is not afraid to tackle the thorny issue of Matthew's HIV status and the small - but significant - part it played during the fall-out from this terrible event (notably, the devastating consequences for one of the police officers who was first to arrive at the scene of the crime), but that hasn't prevented some critics from questioning the film's 'narrow' liberal viewpoint. For instance, is homophobia and AIDS more deserving of such a high-profile movie than any number of similar social ills? No, but no one has ever complained about high-profile movies which (quite rightly) denounce racism, for instance! And while prominent actors may not be lining up to star in powerful dramas about cancer (for example), those afflicted by cancer are hardly likely to encounter discrimination at state and governmental level because of their 'lifestyle choices', with little more than begrudging tolerance for their medical welfare. Secondly, the film is accused in some quarters of being a patronising diatribe, in which a bunch of 'backwoods hicks' are taught the error of their ways by 'omniscient and enlightened Californians' (as one skeptical Internet reviewer has complained). Only the townspeople themselves can confirm or deny this particular accusation, though the Tectonic Theater Project mounted a special performance of the stageplay in Laramie itself which didn't seem to generate any controversy. Other questions are not so easy to dismiss: Was the country really so outraged by Matthew's death, or was the controversy generated by little more than a media frenzy? After all, despite the platitudes expressed at the time, little has changed in the intervening years with regards to hate crimes legislation. In some ways, this is hardly surprising, since most politicians find it expedient to pacify an alignment of fanatical religious bigots. If nothing else, THE LARAMIE PROJECT reminds us to guard against prejudice and hatred wherever it manifests itself, to derive inspiration from the likes of Matthew Shepard, and - most importantly - to honor the fallen.
As a film, "Laramie" (which opened the Sundance Film Festival in 2002) is an impressive achievement; Kaufman has brought his considerable skills as a theatre director to bear on a much broader cinematic canvas. It's mostly talking heads, of course, but there's an urgency in the telling which might have been lost in a straightforward documentary presentation. Ultra-professional in all departments, and acted with conviction by a sterling cast, the movie is thought-provoking and poignant, and inspires confidence that all is not lost in the battle against ignorance.
This movie is simply a documentary. In fact, it's really just a bunch of
interviews. And interviews with actors portraying the original people that
lived in this town. So, really, it's just a made-up documentary.
That understood, it was well done. It looked real, the actors did a great job. I don't remember hearing about this true-life incident, so I wasn't swept up in the emotion, nor was I really interested in the event.
I would have liked this movie a whole lot more if it was NOT a documentary, but a re-enactment of the whole incident, from the Shepard boy's life and home and at school, to the murder, to the aftermath. THEN, the interviews could have had some meaning.
I watched it. I sat through the whole thing. But if I came across this documentary, or rather, a REAL documentary with the real people on Discovery, A&E, or some channel like that, I would change the channel and not be interested at all.
Have no idea why the producers of this film, based on a real life tragic incident, could not have used the residents of Laramie themselves to produce this film. Using Hollywoodites the film came across so phony in its presentation that the message of violence against and murder of any person, regardless of their chosen life-styles, got sidetracked by the struggle to focus on and promote, favorably, a very controversial life-style. Will this film become the "Reefer Madness" of today? It is surely in the top running for same!
Having had more than a few friends beaten badly for their sexual preference 10 years before Matthew was killed and watching the police and the school cover it up, I can see making much of the subject. Kid died horribly because he was an openly gay guy (and rather fey, no less) and, finally, everyone paid attention. Yeah, the film is preaching to the choir for a lot of us "queers" (me included) but, albeit heavy handed and loaded with well-meaning stars who want to make a "statement" about their politics, is necessary and sufficient to wake up a few more people to the amount of violence out there towards others simply because these people are "different" in some way. Now that we've covered this poor kid's death, how about a heavy-handed film about the horrors going on in the Middle East orchestrated by the US Government? (I'd like to see Clea in that one, btw...)
What a disappointing presentation of a fascinating incident. From the opening bars of Golub's score, shamelessly ripped off from Philip Glass, to the improvised-sounding but clearly enacted dialogue, which sounds as if the actors are reading from a transcribed tape recording, the film is a let down. It's like some pastiche of The Blair Witch Project, The Thin Blue Line, and something Cassavetes might have thought about and rejected. The familiar faces aren't that bothersome. Okay, so they volunteered, but all in a good cause. (Let's live and let live.) "And The Band Played On" proceeded along pretty much the same path. But this one fails. It's not really a docudrama of the sort we've become used to -- a narrative tale with actors playing the parts of real people, with a beginning and an end. It's more like a series of interviews in which performers try to sound as if they're making the dialogue up as they go along. The reenactment scenes are minimal, less so than in "The Thin Blue Line." At times it's positively embarrassing to watch. Worse, there is a self-congratulatory quality on screen. The movie makers (or the actors portraying them) have shots of themselves looking somber while conducting the interviews. (We makers of this movie are on the side of the angels, see?) Errol Morris wouldn't have lowered his brow to such an extent. Movies like this need to be careful about something else too. There is a natural tendency in describing awful crimes like this to make the bad guys evil and, even moreso, the victims saintly. This film mostly manages to avoid the trap of sharpening differences -- Shephard had HIV and may have come on to the two straight murderers -- but the movie leans in this dangerous direction nevertheless. It's difficult for people to come to grips with the fact that minority-group victims (like victims in general) deserve our compassion not because they belong to a minority, but because they are human beings, warts and all. It's their humanity that makes it wrong to mistreat them so.
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