CAPSULE: Emilio Estevez writes, directs, produces, and plays the main character in this story of homeless people in Cincinnati who want to avoid freezing on a record cold night. They shelter in a public library. The incident becomes a news story of national proportions. The film has a respectable cast including Estevez, Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone Christian Slater, Jeffrey Wright, and Michael Kenneth Williams. It is a comedy/drama but the toward the end, the drama outweighs the comedy. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Public libraries are created to serve the public. However, it is not always clear what policies would best serve the public's needs.
It is a record cold winter in downtown Cincinnati. Public shelters from the cold are filled up beyond capacity. The cold could likely be deadly for a troop of the homeless dwellers to risk hypothermia on the streets over night, so instead they turn the library into an ad hoc homeless shelter. This is certainly not what the city feels is the purpose for library facilities. These are the people the city neglects. These are the mentally ill, recently impoverished, and the disenfranchised. The troop of the homeless refuses to leave the building and go out into the possibly deadly cold. Their leader is an eloquent spokesman, Jackson (played by Michael Kenneth Williams).
Elsewhere we have people posturing for the center of attention for political grist from the incident.
THE PUBLIC initially seems like a comedy-drama with the accent on the drama. The humor comes mostly from the ignorant questions and requests that come from library users. In the second half the whimsical side of library work was mostly lost. Soon, however, the whimsy drains out and the incident becomes a media and political football. The film takes on the tone and follows the path of a DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975) with the same sort of standoff.
Acting honors go to Michael Kenneth Williams as the leader of the homeless revolt. Actress Jena Malone seems like an old friend after she shared a lead role with Jodie Foster in CONTACT (1997). Also featured are Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, and Jeffrey Wright.
I rate THE PUBLIC a low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10. (Watching the film, I asked myself whether the Cincinnati Public Library actually has that much open space. I looked it up in Google-images. I admit it. The place looks cavernous.)
Release date: April 5, 2019.
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3294746/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_public
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2019 Mark R. Leeper