The Laramie Project
***.6 GM
Starring: Terry Kinney, Steve Buscemi, Janeane Garofalo, Laura Linney, Camryn Manheim, Christina Ricci, Jeremy Davies, Peter Fonda, Joshua Jackson, Amy Madigan, Mark Webber, Clancy Brown


CriminyPete Awards

Good Movie Archive

Bad Movie Archive

The eGroup

Message Board


This is a film based on a play about the Matthew Shepard tragedy, where two jackasses in Laramie, Wyoming, beat the holy living shit out of Shepard with a pistol, tied him to a fence and left him to die just because he was gay. The playwrights conducted over 200 interviews with the people of Laramie and melded them together into a play that examines the homophobia and utter disgust of the town, showing people from both sides of the issue and trying to accurately depict the city's state of collective mind. The movie just puts lots and lots of famous people in the roles of Laramie residents and keeps the pseudo-documentary interview format.

Despite any clinical-seeming nature of the film, it's actually this narrative structure that keeps it from becoming "Sudden Doom: The Matthew Shepard Story - tonight at eight on NBC, right after all new episodes of Suddenly Shitty!" One interesting aspect is that there are NO pictures shown of Matt, nor are there any actors playing the part of Matt. This is unheard of in a tale about someone's tragic demise - every other time, slow pans up and down still photographs of the victim are mandated by the Law of Emotional Manipulation. A film that gets all its dialog from interviews and court transcripts, yet isn't a true documentary makes for some interesting viewing.

It also builds up to a crescendo culminating in the trial of the ringleader of the crime, wisely holding back any and all comment from Shepard's parents until his father's climactic speech in court. Although this could be a mistake, I plan to trust that this speech was taken verbatim as well, since Hollywood embellishment of a near-documentary like this would be absurd. Yes, the argument could be made that casting celebrities in these roles rather than simply making a documentary film is already excessive embellishment and an unfortunate distraction, but since the interviews were all audio taped, it'd be hard to make a movie.

It's a very strong work, definitely worth seeing, and it made me slightly misty-eyed by the end of it. Thinking about this poor kid's shitty end should make everyone a little sad, and if it doesn't, fuck off.

Back to CriminyPete.Com Knee Jerk Spoilers