“Milk” Heroically Heartbreaking

Genres: Drama, Biopic and Politics/Religion
Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.
Release Date: November 26th, 2008 (limited), December 5th (expands)
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content and brief violence.
Distributors: Focus Features

Directed by: Gus Van Sant

JJ Rating: A

Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) became an influential political player during the 1970’s and he happened to be gay. His drive to make things right for all and equal for all is inspirational. His death, as well as the well liked Mayor George Monscone (Victor Garber), was devastating. But this is a story about his life and how he wanted to do something, and he did do something, that changed many people’s lives. Milk.

I don’t like Sean Penn. I think he sticks his nose into political matters that just doesn’t concern him. I don’t like actors how become political because then, for some stupid reason, their opinion becomes powerful. It’s like Paris Hilton having an important opinion just because she could inherit hotel money baring her last name. He’s also far too serious for someone that did a raunchy teen movie in his early years. I also dislike Tom Cruise because his opinions on mental illness as well as his crazy behavior. But I think he’s a great actor and if he’s in a film I will want to see it just because I know it has the potential to be good. That’s not the case with Sean Penn. People rave about him constantly and I just don’t see it. To me he is a hit and miss actor. He does not have the power to be good over and over again. Leave that to Robert Downey, Jr.

This past holiday week I saw 21 Grams and I think he did a great job in that film. He was obnoxious and I didn’t like him but it was suppose to be that way. He was supposed to be a character that was imperfect and flawed and he preformed masterfully. But then there’s Milk and the caliber that was in 21 Grams just doesn’t translate over. His performance in Milk reminded me of his performance in I Am Sam. It was not stunning nor was it powerful until the film reached the last ten minutes. In those ten minutes I see what he could have been the last hour and fifty-seven minutes, but just wasn’t. The Oscar Buzz on him is misplaced; majorly. If there are actors that should be considered for an Oscar in this film it should be Josh Brolin who played Dan White with odd confusion, powerful denial and massive amount of jealousy. And the other should be Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones. I’ve seen him in other films and this is a totally different character than the others he has played. He embraced who he was to be and did so without boundaries and I think that should be appreciated and talked about.

Lucas Grabeel (from High School Musical 3 I mention that because I find this as a interesting role transition) played Danny Nicoletta and he had a small role but did fairly good. James Franco was Scott Smith who was Milk’s boyfriend. Franco came into the character towards the end as well. When he became frustrated with Milk and how much time he was spending campaigning that’s when I got to see Franco act differently than he had in other films.

Gus Van Sant is a good director. I liked Elephant because of how mundane it was and how it was such with a purpose. I think every single scene in Milk had a purpose and created the feel for the entire film that led up to the moment that was dreaded from the get go. And when that moment came the silence was more deafening than if the shots were actually heard, more powerful as slow motion toyed with emotions invested in a man that was only trying to give rights to who he believed deserved them as much as anyone else. He was not a threat, he was a man who loved and thought and believed and that scene spoke volumes in pain and loss and that is a credit to Sean Penn and Gus Van Sant.

Milk’s story was so close to perfectly told. The lines were great, the acting was top notch, the directing was more than one could ask for. Everything just fell into place so well. It is one of those films that most people should see and appreciate a man that many within his community knew but few learn about in history class.

What’s interesting is that those that love the activist that is fighting lose out and they drop the relationship they have with the activist because they can’t bare the responsibility their loved one decided to take on. It’s just interesting how that is a cornerstone in activist’s lives and if it were just fiction, instead of based on true events, it would be called a cliché.

Milk could very well be nominated for Best Movie and I would not be at all shocked by that. I would also not be shocked if Sean Penn is nominated as Best Actor, but it would be like nominating Russell Crowe in Gladiator instead of the way better performance of Joaquin Phoenix. It would be predictable but it would not be right.

Milk is a very good film and I’m slightly surprised by that. I did not expect to really like it. I appreciate the sex scenes were not over the top. I dislike when sex upstages the meaning of the film itself and I think that Gus Van Sant handled that really well. Harvey Milk seems, via the film, like a man that would have been great to know and I bet he would be pleased that a film about him was made and it was made to make people think. It is a heroically heartbreaking story that should be viewed so others may understand and appreciate the greatness of someone they may or may not agree with.

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