Part VI. 2008. The legalization of same-sex marriage has had a roller coaster of a ride. The latest victory was the California Supreme Court ruling that it is a constitutional right for people of the...
Part II. 1977. Cleve is working on Harvey Milk's next bid for a city supervisor seat, they hoping it will be fourth time lucky. Roma and her associates are not officially supporting Milk as they see ...
A dramatization of the real life San Francisco centered fight for LGBT rights from 1972 to 2015 is presented, the LGBT community which arguably has had the most numerous organized campaigns against them of any minority group to suppress those rights in the United States during that time period. It focuses on the advocacy and other supportive work of four individuals, Cleve Jones, Roma Guy, Diane Jones and Ken Jones, whose experiences focus on different aspects of the issue. Cleve's story focuses primarily on the political and legislative fight for gay and ultimately LGBT rights. Roma's story focuses primarily on her fight for women's rights, especially safe places for women, within that where she as a lesbian fits, ultimately a fight for universal health care in San Francisco, and her personal relationships particularly with Diane. Beyond that relationship with Roma, Diane's story focuses on her work as a nurse in caring for AIDS patients, and her want as a lesbian to have a child. ... Written by
Lofty goals and high ambitions are not guarantors of success. Neither are Oscar-winning screen writers, Oscar-nominated directors, nor seasoned performers. The overly ambitious TV miniseries, "We Shall Rise," comes across as an historical pastiche culled from such superior material as "Milk," "And the Band Played On," "Longtime Companion," and "The Normal Heart." Dustin Lance Black's California-centric teleplay uses broad strokes to cover the gay rights movement from the Stonewall riots to AIDS to marriage equality through the eyes of three players in the struggle: Cleve Jones, Roma Guy, and Ken Jones. However, even a five-part series cannot do justice to more then four decades of history, especially when the ABC telecast interrupts every two to five minutes with commercials; even more annoying, the commercials look like the program and the program looks like the commercials. Without any transitions, viewers need a few seconds to determine if they are still watching the program or if another ad has sneaked in. The four directors, which include Gus Van Sant, maintain a good pace and utilize newsreel footage, some with unconvincing inserts of the actors, interspersed with the drama to illustrate events. Although challenging to judge with all the interruptions, more favorable reviews may emerge after "We Shall Rise" appears on DVD.
Perhaps most disrupting was the decision to change the cast members mid-program. Austin P. McKenzie, Emily Skeggs, and Jonathan Majors play Cleve, Roma, and Ken during the first few episodes. Then, Guy Pearce, Mary Louise-Parker, and Michael Kenneth Williams take over in the same roles as slightly older versions of the characters. The change is jarring; the younger actors bear little to no resemblance to their slightly more mature counterparts, and none attempts to match their characters mannerisms or personalities. The younger actors come off better, perhaps because they create the characters and suffer no comparisons to earlier incarnations as do Pearce, Parker, and Williams. However, the directors and cast should have studied "Moonlight," a film that seamlessly used three different actors to portray the same character at various stages of his life. Frankly, "We Shall Rise" had little reason to use different actors; the age disparity is not that great, and subtle make-up and acting could have convincingly bridged the age gap. Viewers now ponder why Cleve became more affected as he aged, while Ken became less good natured, not to mention the drastic physical changes.
Unfortunately, ABC's brave decision to devote a week's prime-time programming to a lesson in gay rights history was not well served, and the weak ratings will likely dampen enthusiasm for further efforts. The disjointed telecast impacts the drama, and some good performances from a large talented cast suffer. A generous sprinkling of cameos from Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell, Dylan Walsh, David Hyde Pierce, Rob Reiner, and others testifies to the broad support and enthusiasm for the project. However, the intended audience for the project is uncertain. The LGBT community, their friends, and their families already know and have lived this history, while those opposed to equal rights will not tune in. With the choir stalls filled, are there any open minds to fill the pews?
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