The Public Review - Star Power Spotlights Plight of The Disenfranchised

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The Public, from Greenwich Entertainment, presents the story of a group of homeless who stage a sit-in, an occupy the Library, to protest the lack of shelters during a brutal, bitter, cold snap that claimed eleven lives.

Directed and written by Emilio Estevez, The Public stars Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, Jeffrey Wright, Jena Malone, Gabrielle Union, Taylor Schilling, Michael Kenneth Williams, Richard T. Jones, Spencer Garrett, Ki Hong Lee, Jacob Vargas, Carly Tamborski, Brain Gallagher, Ray Bouderau, Rhymefest, Susan Kile, Nik Pajic, Michael Douglas Hall, Patrick Hume and writer/director Emilio Estevez as Stuart Goodson.

The Public begins with a wide angle view of a yet unknown city, and closes in panning the streets we see homeless, some sleeping, some huddled beneath blankets, as we narrow to the walkway of the Cincinnati Public Library to a small confrontation between Ernesto, the library security, played by Jacob Vargas and a homeless woman, played by Susan Kile.


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Just as the stare down seems to be a challenge, Mr. Goodson, played by Emilio Estevez, shows up and reinforces the policy and explains “I will keep you from coming into the library and with this cold is that what you want?”

We meet the library staff as Stuart makes his way through the building, library supervisor Mr. Anderson, played by Jeffrey Wright, his colleague, Myra, played by Jena Malone, a lover of literature and assigned to Social Sciences.

Soon the Library opens and the men’s room is filled with four men, Jackson, played by Michael Kenneth Williams, Caesar, played by Patrick Hume, Big George, played by Rhymefest, and a nameless homeless man, played by Michael Urriquia, all in various stages of morning rituals, brushing teeth, and simple sponge baths.

The day progresses and soon Mr. Stuart and Ernesto are meeting with Mr. Anderson. The Library is being sued for violating a homeless man’s civil rights. He was removed from the building after numerous complaints over his body odor and as the two escorted him they commented “Elvis has left the building.” This resulted, as Prosecutor Josh Davis, plays by Christian Slater, explains a lawsuit.


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The day ends and the brutal winter cold has settled in over the city. The next morning local news reporter Rebecca Parks, played by Gabrielle Union, who longs for a larger market, is reporting on the cold and another homeless person has died, attempting to seek shelter in front of the library. That brings the total to eleven who have died due to exposure.

We also meet Crisis Negotiator Detective Bill Ramstead, played by Alec Baldwin who is asking for time off. His son, Mike, has disappeared again, and his mother, played by Susanna Thompson, is devastated looking for him. Admitting that the epidemic of Opioid Abuse and homelessness has hit so close to the center of those who are charged to combat it is difficult all around.

Stuart, even while gainfully employed lives in a building that suffers with the weather tonight, the coldest in the season, has his landlord, Angela, played by Taylor Schilling, banging on the radiator hoping for a miracle.


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The Public is truly a sleeper hit, overlooked for the razzle dazzle at the box office, the film is packed with mega star wattage, solid acting and a timely, meaningful, story line that addresses more than one of the epidemics society currently faces.

The story, created by Estevez, covers the social ills that has become an eyesore in many major cities, especially Los Angeles, where encampments spring up everywhere. In cities where the elements are added to the challenge the obstacles of assisting those who need to be off the streets, for the protection of society, and those who, for a myriad of reasons have become the disenfranchised are two different battles.

Estevez weaves in great literature into this story that really opens a Pandora's box especially as homelessness is at epidemic proportions.

What role does society play in helping end homelessness? The Fourth Amendments rights of library patrons, the Freedom and flow of information within the walls of the library is protected and yes, even down to the violation of civil rights for removal of a smelly patron.


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A film of protest, Estevez uses the tools he is comfortable with and creates a permanent record, a footprint, with a depth of topics, any one of which could be a single protest march, packed into a 120-minute film.

The Public is impressive, and the topics brought out in an engaging, well told, informative and entertaining story. The film is playing in select cities. See it. When it streams, see it again.

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