The Public | Salt Lake City Weekly
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  Rated PG-13 · 119 minutes · 2019

If earnestness were everything, Emilio Estevez would be a world-class filmmaker; he keeps making movies dripping with a sincere desire to move people, but just a bit too clumsy about it to work. The writer/director also stars as Stuart Goodson, a librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library who finds himself at the center of controversy when a group of homeless men (led by Michael Kenneth Williams) occupy the building during a deadly cold snap. At the outset, Estevez does a terrific job of understanding the weird milieu of a big-city public library, with montages of oddball reference questions and the challenges of dealing with clients facing a variety of struggles. But once the main occupation plot kicks in, things get progressively more melodramatic, with ridiculous characters like a law-and-order mayoral candidate (Christian Slater) and an ethically bankrupt TV news reporter (Gabrielle Union). Everything Estevez initially seems to be trying to say about libraries as a valuable institution—and his own solid performance as a guy with his own troubled past—gets overwhelmed by grand statements about an uncaring society.
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Director: Emilio Estevez
Producer: Lisa Niedenthal, Alex Lebovici and Steve Ponce
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Emilio Estevez, Jena Malone, Taylor Schilling, Christian Slater, Gabrielle Union, Jeffrey Wright and Jacob Vargas

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