Review – The Public (2019)

by Cine-Ma

Emilio Estevez returns to the big screen after a nine year absence with a film he has written, produced, directed, and stars in called The Public. It’s a story about Stuart Goodson, a supervisor in the non-fiction section of the third floor of the Cincinnati Public Library. It takes place during one of the most life-threatening cold snaps in the city’s history which affects the homeless patrons of the library when they have to return to the streets after the library closes for the night. Also appearing in the film are Jeffrey Wright , Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, Michael K. Williams, and Jena Malone.

Stuart Goodson (Estevez) is a mild-mannered library employee who is on a first name basis with many of the homeless people who frequent the library to get out of the cold and to not be hassled by law enforcement during the day. These people consider the library a safe haven…a place they won’t be bothered…where they can have access to computers, newspapers, books, and even take a nap if they want to. Come closing time however, they all have to leave the building. Since the city is in the midst of a terrible cold snap, all the shelters are full to capacity including the overflow shelters. The homeless people in the library, led by Michael K. Williams, decide to stage a good, old fashioned sit-in to protest the city’s treatment of the homeless. Emilio Estevez becomes involved because he’s the supervisor on duty, is friends with most of these people, and soon joins them in their protest. While the protest starts out okay, soon we learn that Stuart has a past that he’s not proud of, involving being homeless himself for a time, and arrested for different things, but the film never says why which could have been an interesting side story.  

There are some big names in this film:  Christian Slater plays Josh Davis, an opportunistic lawyer who also happens to be running for mayor. He’s a character who’s part could have been totally eliminated and no one would have noticed. Alec Baldwin is Detective Bill Ramsted who looks like he’s spending a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly it is he’s supposed to be doing in this film. Michael K. Williams and Jeffrey Wright are other principle players who are really trying to keep this storyline afloat.    

There are a number of things wrong with this movie.  First of all, it’s supposed to be intensely cold outside, but the law enforcement outside the library don’t seem to be phased by it. You can’t see anyone’s breath which you should be able to see if it was that cold. There are too many insignificant subplots going on that could have been left out and the film does drag in the middle. This is a two hour movie that could have been cut by 30 minutes or so and been better for it. None of the characters seem to have any substance to them, especially Estevez’ character who seems rather one dimensional.  

I was really looking forward to this film. I worked in a public library for some time and I have two librarians in the family, so I felt I should be able to relate to the story. I also wanted to like this film because I like the people in it, especially Jeffrey Wright, Emilio Estevez, and Alec Baldwin. The problem is that the story could have been a real statement about governmental indifference towards the homeless and mentally ill, but instead becomes a piece of fluff.

Sorry, Emilio. I was hoping for far better since you said in a recent interview that you’ve been working on this story for nine years. It’s probably best that you stick with providing voices for animated features and stop aspiring to be a storyteller.

I am giving The Public a 1 out of 5 Hairpieces!


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