Milk covers the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to hold public office in California. It starts just before Milk (played by Sean Penn) turns 40, when he meets Scott Smith (James Franco) and they move to San Francisco. It covers Milk’s rise as a political activist in the Castro district, and various runs for public office. Other key people include Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch) and Dan White (a creepy Josh Brolin).

The film is very good. While I lived in the Bay Area during the period this film covers, and I had heard of Harvey Milk and Dan White, I did not know much about Milk himself or anything about the other people shown in the film. I didn’t know what groups he befriended beyond the homosexual community in his journey to elected office. All of this is shown in a straightforward yet highly engaging way by director Gus Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, both of whom received Oscar® nominations for their work here (the latter won).

But the real key to how well this film works is in the performances, and in particular Penn’s performance. He brings Milk alive on screen, but in an organic, less showy way than you might expect. You find yourself wishing even more than you might have expected that Milk could still be alive now, both from a political and a human perspective.

I’ll give this a strong 3.5 stars out of 4 stars. It would have been my pick of the five choices for Best Picture, if I had had a vote.

Seen 2/16/2009.


One Response to “Milk

  1. Cynthia Says:

    Enjoyed this review – probably because I agree 100% with everything. What struck me at the end of the film was that I wasn’t choked up about Harvey’s death, it was more about what the world had lost. I wondered what effect he would have had on the world, he had done so much in only a few years.

    Great Cinequest reviews too, I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to find your site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: