Milk

"Good"

Milk Review


Thirty years before Sen. Barack Obama broke through a significant political color barrier, Harvey Milk tore down a similar wall that was obstructing America's gay community from holding political office.

Milk finds experimental auteur Gus Van Sant taking cautious steps back toward the mainstream to celebrate Harvey's accomplishments. Van Sant's tender human-interest story, which showcases Sean Penn's considerable talents, is a closer relative to earlier efforts such as Finding Forrester or Good Will Hunting than to recent, abstruse features like Elephant, the spare Gerry, or the haunting Last Days.

The director opens Milk with sobering news footage announcing the influential politician's murder before rewinding to record the highlights of his life. Most came during a seven-year stretch from 1972-'78, when the 40-year-old camera-store owner (Penn, buried in the role) established himself as the voice of San Francisco's oppressed, disgruntled, and frightened gay community. Someone once dubbed Harvey the Mayor of North Castro, though Penn, in character, jokes he might have came up with the title himself.

From the sanctuary of his humble office in San Fran's liberal Castro neighborhood, Milk launched a series of grassroots campaigns to become the first openly gay man to be elected to public office. Change didn't happen overnight. Milk lost repeatedly but refused to quit, for each election cycle offered a glimmer of hope -- an increase in the number of votes received, or a possible rezoning of districts that would open up favorable neighborhoods. It took several tries before Milk finally broke through the invisible barrier and became an elected member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

At its best, Milk illustrates how political movements can be born of frustration, and how easy it is for groups of strangers to find unity and strength in numbers. A magnetic Penn leads a powerful ensemble -- Milk is, above all else, an acting showcase for the raw talents of Emile Hirsch, Alison Pill, and an underused Victor Garber as Mayor George Moscone. Two additional performances deserve recognition. James Franco is compassionate and supportive as Scott Smith, Milk's longtime lover who served as his campaign manager until the stress of campaigning drove a wedge between the men. And Josh Brolin continues his astounding streak to play Dan White, a fellow supervisor whose differences with Harvey drove him to murder.

Yet Milk has some flaws. Dustin Lance Black's script has a tendency to keep redefining Milk's battles, which are clear from the film's onset. A strained romance between Penn and Diego Luna becomes tedious, not tumultuous. The nod to Puccini's opera Tosca (you can't miss it) is extremely heavy-handed. And this is strange to say about a film centered on an outspoken politician, but Van Sant allows Milk to bog down in politics, and the film's rhythm suffers as a result.

Milk also bears the sin of manipulation, from the swells Danny Elfman's warm and full-bodied score to the wheelchair-bound teenager who calls Milk with words of encouragement when things get rough. The movie's message is strong enough. So are the performances. Van Sant didn't have to rely on cinematic tricks.

With all due respect to president-elect Obama, Milk also illustrates how little things have changed. Thirty years after Milk's assassination, America's gay community continues to fight for its civil rights. The passing of California Proposition 8, which eliminated the rights of gay men and women to marry, proved that state -- and the rest of the country -- has a long way to go to realize Milk's vision. What about movie audiences? Will they show support for a crowd-pleasing Oscar-baiter about a progressive gay politician? Box office figures may help answer that in due time.

Milk and champagne? Hmmm...



Milk

Facts and Figures

Run time: 128 mins

In Theaters: Friday 30th January 2009

Box Office USA: $31.7M

Box Office Worldwide: $54.5M

Budget: $20M

Distributed by: Focus Features

Production compaines: Focus Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 214 Rotten: 14

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Bruna Papandrea,

Starring: as Harvey Milk, as Cleve Jones, as Scott Smith, as Dan White, as Jack Lira, as Anne Kronenberg, as Mayor Moscone, as John Briggs, as Dick Pabich, as Rick Stokes, as Danny Nicoletta, as Denton Smith

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.