Milk (US, 2008)

A hero of his time

A hero of his time

I’m ambivalent about this film: Sean Penn is fabulous (but then he normally is) but I almost fell asleep at one point. It might have been Gus van Sant’s functional direction that made me soporific or it could be the constraints of the biopic genre. To portray a life in two hours you obviously have to focus on key moments. Anyone with knowledge of Milk’s life would know what should be included; this immediately limits scriptwriters: events must be included regardless of their dramatic potential or cohesiveness. For me the story wasn’t gripping until Milk took on the Religious Right.

That said, Milk’s is an important tale as he fought successfully against bigotry. He seemed the ideal politician in that he decided to get elected to San Francisco’s Board of Representatives for a reason (Gay rights) and not for power. But Gus van Sant can’t resist sentimentalising Milk’s death (I haven’t given that away, that’s obvious from the start) with a long drawn out scene that even Penn struggles to make convincing.

It’s great to see ‘pretty boy’ James Franco embracing the role as Milk’s lover. It wasn’t long ago that Will Smith was advised (for Six Degrees of Separation, 1993, I think) not to engage in a ‘gay kiss’ as it would ruin his career. Hollywood remains homophobic but progress has been made.

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One Response

  1. I was very disappointed by Milk and despite Sean Penn being quite good as Harvey Milk the main star for me was Josh Brolin as Dan White, who for me was stand out. My big problem with it is: the story of Harvey Milk is extraordinary but the film is told ordinarily, that is fairly bothersome, but then I’m not a big fan of Gus Van Sant. And I still think Mickey Rourke is going to win the Oscar.

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