“MILK” (Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco & Emile Hirsch)
A little bit of a disappointment, but a good film nonetheless. Sean is being called the odds-on favorite to win Best Actor, and I think he’s the best actor in the world today, so I hope he does, but to be honest, I thought he was better in “The Assassination of Richard Nixon”, “I Am Sam” & “Dead Man Walking”.
Obviously homophobes are going to stay away from this movie, but for those of you that might feel uneasy over seeing ‘gay’ sex – it isn’t as graphic as I feared it might be – there’s plenty of male to male make out scenes but no creepy nude scenes (except one that takes place in a darkened room) & no ‘ride ‘em, cowboy’ Brokeback Mountain tent scenes. Even though I was slightly uncomfortable with the passionate kissing scenes but not to the point where it made me dislike the film.
But I can’t really say that I liked it all that much – & here’s why – the archived footage of the actual events that were used distracted from the characterizations; it gave the film somewhat of a documentary feel. It’s more of a period piece on the 70’s Gay Rights movement than it is the story of Harvey Milk - & yes, I realize that’s what Harvey was all about, but if that’s the case – why call the film ‘Milk’? Call it ‘The Recruits’ instead (Since every one of Harvey’s speeches began with the line, “I’m Harvey Milk & I want to recruit you.”)
I guess I wanted the plot to center more on Harvey & Josh Brolin’s character, Dan White. To explore their relationship more & what lead to the tragic events that end the film.
I know that if I were gay & felt strongly about ‘the cause’, I would have enjoyed the film more, but it got to the point of being the same scene shown over & over again; Harvey runs for political office/gay make-out scene/Harvey loses election/gay make-out scene/Harvey runs for political office/gay make-out scene/Harvey loses election...
And Harvey is also shown to be flawed – a scene where he angrily voices his disappointment over an initiative for human rights not containing the word ‘gay’ makes him look like a hypocrite. His choice of boyfriend, a pretty boy latino with the I.Q. of a feather duster, makes him appear to be superficial; ‘as long as the sex is good, I don’t care if my lover is an embarrassingly needy bimbo’.
Among the supporting cast, Emile Hirsch impressed me the most – overlooked for a Best Actor nod in last year’s “Into The Wild”, the kid bounces back here from what I’m sure was a career low point in playing ‘Speed Racer’. He plays Cleve Jones, a runaway teenager (from Phoenix) that Harvey ‘recruits’ to join his cause. When Harvey finally wins an election, Cleve is given the job of leading the gay marches on City Hall since Harvey is no longer allowed to do so (Since he works there!)
Josh Brolin’s name has been mentioned as possible Supporting Actor fodder, but I don’t see it at all. He has one drunken scene where his character has to change from his normally dour demeanor, but other than that, it’s a one-note role & not very challenging at that. All I remember thinking about his performance in ‘Milk’ was that he sure didn’t look like George W. Bush in this one...
Praise is being heaped upon James Franco (As Harvey’s earlier boyfriend, Scott) & once again, I thought his portrayal was low-key & ‘one note’; Scott’s main duties seemed to be French kissing Harvey & smiling a lot.
The most disturbing scene for me comes at the end – just on the off chance you DON’T know how the story ends, I won’t go into details, but the finale is particularly gruesome because of how realistic it looks. I’m afraid that image is going to stick with me for a long time since its sending shudders down my spine just writing about it.
So ‘Milk’ is a good film, but not great. Sean Penn gives an impressive performance that is worth viewing; he’s 'full blown' gay, but he’s not flamboyant about it. Penn's Harvey is a sweetheart; someone every non-biased person would love to have as a friend. I guess he learned from “I Am Sam” & decided NOT to go FULL homesexual.
Harvey is a very nice, lovable man; unsure of himself at times, but staying focused on the task at hand. Harvey loves men, but he loves his status as the first openly gay man to be elected to public office more.
After spending forty years doing ‘nothing’ with his life, Harvey moves to San Francisco & makes Gay Rights his passion – His entire campaign stems on telling homosexuals to ‘come out of the closet’ so that everyone can see that they know someone who is gay & they’re just like ‘normal’ people; something I learned many years ago.
So I fully expected to like ‘Milk’ but the movie was just too preachy & kind of boring in spots. It does, however pack a huge wallop of an ending – even when you know what’s coming, it doesn’t stop it from being powerful & heartbreaking...