This film was written, directed, and produced by its lead actor, original Brat Pack member Emilio Estevez (The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, The Outsiders and Young Guns). With Emilio at the wheel, it makes sense that this film secured a blockbuster cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Jena Malone, and Christian Slater, to name a few.
The Public is moving drama set in a Public Library in downtown Cincinnati. During opening hours, its patrons consist of your everyday library cardholders that include the homeless, mentally ill and otherwise marginalised people. When a particularly deadly cold snap hits the city, a group of homeless men led by Jackson (Michael Kenneth Williams), overtake the library seeking refuge. What begins as an act of civil disobedience becomes a stand-off with police, the media spins the story as a hostage situation, and chaos ensues. Stuart (Emilio Estevez), the librarian, feeling a sense of obligation, decides to stand with them to not only make a statement but to save their lives.
The library is one of the rare places people can stay for a while without having to spend any money. The film was 12 years in the making, Estevez said 'It started as an idea but then became a moral imperative to get it done'. Estevez is known to cultivate films and stories with relevant messages. This one shines a much-needed light on the global issue of homelessness. Interestingly, and in the act of kindness, Estevez hired extras from Cincinnati's homeless population. He gave them meals, a paycheck and through this kindness, a little dignity and sense of empowerment.
I enjoyed the film and would happily watch it again. It is full of heart, humour, timely social commentary and solid performances by all involved. Alec Baldwin (Detective Bill Ramstead) is a fantastic dramatic actor, it great to see him back at it. Christian Slater is brilliant as district attorney Josh Davis. Jena Malone shines as a quirky environmentally conscience librarian. Emilio Estevez is perfect as do-gooder Goodson. My only critic is that I think this film would have done better as a series. There are just so many interesting characters that could be further fleshed out. With such great actors, it is a shame they all didn't get enough moments. The ending is a brilliant, big screen, popcorn worthy moment that had me smiling.
Bravo, The Public!
CAST: Emilio Estevez as Stuart Goodson, a librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library Alec Baldwin as Detective Bill Ramstead, a crisis negotiator for the Cincinnati Police Department Christian Slater as Josh Davis, the local district attorney for the City of Cincinnati Jena Malone as Myra, a librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library Taylor Schilling as Angela, Stuart's neighbour and love interest Michael K. Williams as Jackson, the homeless man who leads the Occupy sit-in at the library Jeffrey Wright as Mr. Anderson, the head librarian of the Cincinnati Public Library Gabrielle Union as Rebecca Parks, a local reporter Jacob Vargas as Ernesto, head of security for the library Richard T. Jones as Chief Edwards Bryant Bentley as Cactus Ray, the homeless man who helps Jackson in the sit-in at the library Ki Hong Lee as Chip Michael Douglas Hall as Smutts, homeless friend of Jackson's that sparks the idea of the sit-in Che "Rhymefest" Smith as Big George