I saw Milk for the second time tonight and it is much better the second time around.
I’ll be the first person to admit that when a movie is receiving Oscar buzz, I almost always have to see it twice. After the first viewing, I’m iffy about the film – I like it and can see why others think it’s great but I’m just not as likely to jump on the Slumdog Millionaire party express. A second viewing really enables me to put aside everything I’ve heard and just watch. This is exactly what I had to do with Milk.
While I noted the use of archival footage to tell Milk’s story, it did not stand out to me as an exceptional element of the film. Now I see that the archival footage is a crucial part of the story because it tells the history of both San Francisco and the gay rights in a way that just Harvey Milk’s story could not.
James Franco’s performance as Milk’s supportive but unhappy partner stands out more than Josh Brolin’s destructive villian.
I finally understand why Milkhas received so much buzz. Visually, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is stunning but it does not have same passion and insight as Milk. With the Oscar nominations being announced in just THREE days, I certainly hope this fantastic movie fares better with the Academy voters than it did with the HFPA.
“My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.”
Every year there is at least one biopic that seems to be on every person’s radar. Not that that’s a bad thing. This year’s biopic is Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant.
Milk tells the story of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk. In the 1970s, Milk reinvented himself from a closeted New York City insurance salesman to become the country’s first openly gay politician and the face of the country’s gay rights movement. His life, his political career, and his untimely death have left an unequaled legacy on both gay rights and in American politics.
Harvey Milk is played by Academy Award winner Sean Penn, who once again shows the depth of his talent through this performance. Penn is compelling and never seems as though he is playing a stereotype, which is the greatest risk for an actor playing Milk.
Milk boasts an equally impressive supporting cast. James Franco, Emilie Hirsch, Alison Pill, Joseph Cross, and Diego Luna play Milk’s closest allies. Franco is a silent force as Scott Smith, Milk’s long-suffering partner. But Franco’s quiet yet resonate performance is outshined by Josh Brolin. Brolin’s portrayal of Milk’s fellow city supervisor and eventual assassin, Dan White, is mesmerizing and haunting. Surprisingly, White is a sympathetic villain; his descent into evil is treated fairly by the filmmakers, allowing audiences to draw their own opinions about White.
There is an eerie sensation about Milk. It is the story of a politician who becomes the voice for individual rights while spreading a message of hope and it is a story focused on a gay rights proposition in California. Two stories similar to this played out in the recent election, giving Milk an even more resounding message. In many ways, you are watching a film that is about today as much as it is about the 1970s.
Harvey Milk was a brilliant man and activist. He was funny and flamboyant; tragic and flawed; inspiring and passionate. This film is tells the story of rich and fascinating life by using any method of filmmaking possible to peel off the layers.
By the end of this film, you know Harvey Milk and that is Milk‘s greatest achievement.