Wednesday, December 10, 2008


It's hard, very hard, to review a film when you're crying all the way through it.

Milk had such an emotional impact on me. And it's hard to explain why. It's not really Milk's personal story that is so personal to me. It's our struggle.

I was in my 20's when Dianne Feinstein's mayoral career began, when she was thrust into the spotlight announcing that Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone had been shot and killed. I was in laid-back San Diego at the time, just trying to get my life together. That part of my life wasn't even a part of getting it together; my gay life was hidden in the shadows. I knew it was there, but I just couldn't pay attention to it at the time. So I really didn't know much about Harvey Milk in his time. It's really Feinstein's name I remember from the press.

This is such an eloquently carved movie, from the exquisite screenplay to the bevy of fine performances. Leading that list, of course, is actor Sean Penn, who just inhabits the role. The way he moves his hands, his arms, the way his body swayed. While I don't know Harvey Milk, I feel this is Harvey Milk. Penn is a revelation.

But it doesn't stop there. James Franco as Milk's lover has put in his finest performance in a career that is still just beginning. Emile Hirsch continues to amaze as young political activist Cleve Jones. Is there any role Josh Brolin can't flesh out for us? While we'd like to know more about Dan White and what drove him, we get enough glimpses to make this performance work. And the list goes on for the entire cast list.

The best part about this screenplay is that it puts us in the life and times of the 1970's, when the Castro was just coming into its own. It shows us the flow of that neighborhood, and we meet the Castro's denizens. The movie makes no apologies that these men are constantly staring at the new boys in town. Indeed, Harvey Milk is staring. Milk is no saint. But he's definitely a hero.

And, contrary to much criticism, it's my opinion that the movie starts at just the right spot, which is when Milk reaches the age of 40 and decides to change. And it's a cinematic thrill to watch that change, watch him develop into the persistent politician he became.

What hit me so hard is that this film shows not just the struggle of the men and women in San Francisco some 30 years ago, but a struggle that's very personal to us that continues to this day. The passing of Proposition 8 in California just one month ago brings the issue back to the forefront. As if we could ever believe it left. Milk's work will be remembered as we walk with his banner.

This is one of the best movies of 2008. This is one of the most important movies of my life.

Thumb's up.

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At 1:17 PM, Blogger Lauriel said...

I'm looking forward to seeing "Milk" and I'll be sure to bring tissues!

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Melinda said...

Recently watched this film on DVD and it was fabulous...Sean Penn was amazing, simply fantastic and deserved his Oscar 100%! The sad ending we all knew was coming, made me cry. Agree with your review completely!


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