When We Rise ★★

Matching the most hackneyed emotional beats of a '70s social awareness miniseries with a visual palette that veers weirdly closer to Roland Emmerich's tepidly rendered Stonewall than Gus Van Sant's Milk, this extended look at the last fifty years of gay rights advocacy is a hodgepodge of ridiculous dramatic arcs (mostly centered on Michael Kenneth Williams' character, an all-purpose proxy for the intersection of being gay and black/religious/in the military/addicted/HIV positive/cursed to live a life of tragedy), a steady stream of equality platitudes, and terrible popular music covers. At eight hours and with split director duties, Dustin Lance Black's worst tendencies as a screenwriter are left to repeatedly derail any of sense of immediacy, making the film's Prop 8/DOMA victory lap feel distant in a way a historic event with continuing importance to this day shouldn't. Van Sant and Dee Rees, for their part, do serviceable work on the first half centered on '60s and '70s San Francisco, but even there, it's hard not to feel like this is Black just reusing his research from Milk to tackle that era's events from new, more diverse points of view.

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