No segue. I’ve only gotten this trailer, like, once in theaters, so I’m only barely aware of this movie.
It looks like the story is about a library that is open to the homeless, despite their quirks. However, a huge group of them try to take shelter from the police, and the head librarian takes matters into his own hands by protecting them. All for reasons that I didn’t quite catch.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Emilio Estevez (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE  and THE MIGHTY DUCKS ), Jena Malone (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS  and HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY 2 ), Taylor Schilling (PRODIGY ), Alec Baldwin (MI – FALLOUT , BOSS BABY , CONCUSSION , SPONGEBOB MOVIE , and upcoming films ARCTIC JUSTICE  and MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN ), and Michael Kenneth Williams (SUPERFLY , TRIPLE 9 , CAPTIVE , and upcoming films MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN and THE RED SEA DIVING RESORT ).
In support, we have Christian Slater (THE WIFE ), Gabrielle Union (BREAKING IN , SLEEPLESS , BIRTH/NATION , and BAD BOYS II ), Richard T. Jones (QUESTION/FAITH , CONCUSSION, and GODZILLA ), Jeffrey Wright (GAME NIGHT , HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY 2, QUANTUM OF SOLACE , CASINO ROYALE , SHAFT , and upcoming films THE GOLDFINCH  and THE LAUNDROMAT ), and Ki Hong Lee (Maze Runner SCORCH TRIALS  and DEATH CURE , and WISH UPON ).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Estevez, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Co-composing the score are Tyler Bates (SPY/DUMPED , GUARDIANS 2 , JOHN WICK , and the upcoming JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM ) and Joanne Higgins (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of). The cinematographer is Juan Miguel Azpiroz, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and upcoming films BOSS LEVEL (2019). Finally, the co-editors are Richard Chew (STAR WARS: NEW HOPE , and the upcoming I’LL FIND YOU ) and Yang Hua Hu (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of).
Overall, this looks like it could be good. Confusing, but good. Probably just a bad trailer to an otherwise passable flick. Who knows?
This is my honest opinion of: THE PUBLIC
Set in Cincinnati, Ohio. The local public library has been a beacon for all shapes and sizes when it comes to their guests, and has developed quite the reputation for providing a place for the homeless to go, and all ran by the soft-spoken and kindly Stuart Goodson (Emilio Estevez). However, Stuart gets pulled into a board meeting about a law suit coming from a homeless man who claims that he was escorted out of the library because of his body odor. Despite doing his job, it’s believed that what happened to this man was acting against his civil liberties to be in the library and Stuart might get fired. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is facing record freezing temperatures that have claimed the lives of a dozen homeless people. When it’s revealed that the shelters are all full up, the homeless want to stay in the library to avoid a similar fate. Despite the consequences, he seals off the library and allows the homeless to stay. Soon, the police get involved, lead by Detective Bill Ramstead (Alec Baldwin), and future hopeful-mayor Josh Davis (Christian Slater), who want them to leave.
You know what? I kinda dug this movie. Not exactly an action blockbuster, but it’s certainly tackling a different subject that most movies haven’t touched and does it in a pretty entertaining way.
I should probably note that this isn’t exactly a movie where stuff “happens.” Like I said, it’s not an action movie and I can totally see someone saying that it’s boring. I can see that, but this movie does something that keeps it fun for me, and that’s the characters. I enjoy hanging out with them. Stuart is a decent dude who is just trying to do the right thing by these people who are literally dying outside and just don’t want to be a result of lack of sympathy, especially since he’s developed a bond and friendship with more than a few of them. Even the homeless characters aren’t just wallpaper plot devices. Some of them have real personalities.
Even the homeless characters aren’t just plot devices. They have real personalities. Caesar (Patrick Hume) is a fun-fact spewing dude, whose facts may need some serious fact-checking, but he delivers this knowledge with such vigorous passion that you’re pretty much like everyone else and don’t care if he’s right or wrong. You just go with the flow and exclaim, “Hail, Caesar!” with everyone. Smutz (Michael Douglas Hall) has some strong moments as, quite possible, the most mentally sound dude of the bunch, and probably has the more tragic backstory out of all of them. Nothing that’ll jerk tears, but Hall delivers a well-acted moment in the end. And for a sophomore acting credit (as far as IMDb is telling me), this is pretty impressive. Jackson (Michael Kenneth Williams) and Big George (Rhymefest) are my favorites in this bunch. One of the things that I really appreciate is just how raw and realistic these homeless people are portrayed. Some have all of their faculties, but most are clearly not mentally sound. Jackson is very eccentric, overly friendly, says wild and crazy things, loves standing up to the police, but not talking to them. He’s sort of the defacto leader of the homeless. Not that this is by design, they just sort of follow him around, but it’s cool to see just how much they listen to him. Despite his circumstances and talking big, he’s a gentle and even sensitive man. Big George is on that spectrum of not being totally in his own world, but he’s on that razor’s edge, I tell ya. Despite his big, burly, and intimidating size, he’s actually a very vulnerable and fragile dude who comically thinks that he has laser eyes and if he stares too long at someone, he’ll cause their heads to explode, believing that he was experimented on as a baby and has a microchip in his brain. He may not have all the screen time in the world, but when he’s on, he steals the show.
Myra (Jena Malone) is also a lot of fun as she’s this big ole pretentious hipster-type who makes a huge deal about eating organic food, not owning a car when there’s public transportation readily available because of environmental issues, stuff like that. But there seems to be a comedic undertone of self-awareness that acknowledges that she’s pretentious. But that’s not the entirety of her character. When the plot gets going and Stuart and the homeless are barricading themselves in the library, she does show that she has loyalty to both her boss and these people and stays to help stand against the injustice. But even that has its limits when the police get involved and understandably becomes scared, not wanting to face down a police force. At first, I thought once she got out of the library, that’d be it for her character, but she remains prominent throughout the movie, so color me overjoyed in that respect. Honestly, I found Myra to be quite endearing and Malone comes loaded with charm and likability, making her one of my favorite characters in the movie.
However, much as I enjoy the flick, I have a few issues here and there.
There’s a subplot that didn’t feel like it amounted to anything, and that’s with Bill searching for his druggie son, Mike (Nik Pajic). A fair amount of time was dedicated to this set-up in the first act, is almost completely abandoned, and once it’s revisited, it’s resolved in a matter of minutes and is only once more referenced. Even once the movie plunges back into this moment, it barely matters because Mike is revealed to be quite an ungrateful asshole. Stuart, at one point, orders a ton of pizzas for everyone, and while Jackson and a couple of other guys are fairly distributing out the slices, Mike comes around and just steals an entire box of pizza, claiming that he’s “just taking what’s his.” Ah, yes because the homeless druggie is entitled to an entire box when he made zero contribution to pizzas. Or the story for that matter. On that note, I do have to ask why Stuart hid this information from Bill. He had a picture of Mike after their initial conversation. I don’t know, something about this didn’t feel explained. This entire subplot could have easily been cut from the film and you wouldn’t have missed a thing.
The romantic subplot between Stuart and Angela (Taylor Schilling) didn’t feel warranted. Hell, I wasn’t even entirely sure about their relationship as a whole. Landlord and tenant, lead to friendship, then sex, then the possibility of a romantic relationship that never blossoms, it just felt like wasted effort. They could have been rewritten as just close friends. There’s even a random scene where she gets upset with Stuart over his actions. Throughout most of the film, she’s been supportive and even pretty instrumental in shifting the perception of the media’s assumptions that Stuart is holding the homeless hostage by having him film the library with his phone and she giving the footage to Rebecca Parks (Gabrielle Union) the news reporter. For a good majority of her role in the story, I was willing to overlook the random romance and was totally on board with her character. However, her sudden shift in attitude comes out of nowhere, suddenly saying things like, “I know how this sort of thing ends.” Where was that mindset earlier?
And I didn’t quite understand the point of the “suing” plot point that essentially triggers Stuart’s motivations for the entire movie. Like… do people seriously get fired to having to escort out individuals if they’ve had complaints about them? That’s literally just doing their job. Public businesses, restaurants, department stores, I assume libraries, have to escort people out all the time if they otherwise disturb the peace. How do you get sued for something like that by the opposing party? Moreover, how to do you get fired for that? What would have been the correct course of action? Ignore the complaints? Lose business? Get complaints about the business directly? That can’t be good for a reputation. This seems pretty lame since there’s no, “here’s what you should have done” rather than just a ton of “you were wrong.” In short, I question the legalities.
Overall, I like this movie. There’s such a raw honesty to how the characters are portrayed, most of the characters are a lot of fun to hang out with, which prevented me from being bored, Malone, Rhymefest, and Williams being particular standouts, as well as some respectable social commentary without the need to have it get too over-bloated. I’m even fine with the incredibly cheesy ending. Sure, subplots go nowhere, I have to question some legalities, but for the most part, it’s still a pretty enjoyable flick. As a recommendation, I say check it out. Maybe there’s no need to rush out to see it in theaters, unless it’s a discount day, but definitely a heavy recommendation as a rental. I’m glad I saw it and would be open to seeing it again. Probably not more than twice, but once more.
My honest rating for THE PUBLIC: 4/5
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