MOVIE REVIEW: The Public an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser
Three and a half stars
Director: Emilio Estevez
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling
Running time: 122 minutes
Verdict: A small act of civil disobedience with a big heart
More than 30 years after he made The Breakfast Club, Emilio Estevez once again finds himself detained in a library.
But this time, it's a voluntary decision - and one that his character has made for the greater good.
Inspired by an article in the Los Angeles Times, The Public tells the story of a buttoned-down bibliosoph (Estevez), whose hand is forced when a bunch of homeless people stage a peaceful sit-in on his floor during a particularly brutal Midwestern winter.
Up to this point, Stuart Goodson (Estevez) has been sympathetic to the plight of the marginalised community that lines up at the entrance to Cincinnati Main Library each morning to access the internet, use the bathroom facilities or simply escape the bitter cold.
But like most small 'l' liberals, he has been overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the problem.
Having arrived at work that morning to discover one of his regulars has died on the doorstep, from exposure, Goodson makes an impulsive decision to join a group of 100 or so men - led by a charismatic Michael Kenneth Williams - when they refuse to leave the building at closing time because they have nowhere else to go.
Since Goodson represents what amounts to a voice of authority among this rag-tag bunch of misfits, many of who suffer from drug dependency or mental health issues, he becomes their advocate in a stand-off that nobody believes is going to end well.
Especially after Christian Slater's power-hungry District Attorney misrepresents what's happening, leading to media reports of a dangerous hostage situation.
As the police presence escalates, Alec Baldwin's chief police negotiator is distracted by concerns for his own son, an addict who has been missing for days.
Jena Malone's co-librarian and Taylor Schilling's love interest add a feminine element to this primarily blokey world.
Written, directed by and starring Emilio Estevez, The Public is a pleasantly old-fashioned crowd-pleaser, which argues that libraries are the last great bastion of modern democracy, since they provide free access to knowledge, community and shelter.
Opens at selected cinemas tomorrow.