Monday, 28 February 2011
Milk; Drama, USA, 2008; D: Gus Van Sant, S: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, James Franco
On his 40th birthday, Harvey Milk considers his job and his life empty, a notion which is only exacerbated by the fact that he is a gay man living in a not so gay friendly society. However, he meets Scott and they become lovers, eventually moving to San Francisco where they open the Castro Camera store. Annoyed by intolerance, Milk decides to stand up for gay rights by running for the city supervisor. After two failures, he finally wins a seat the third time. He finds a new boyfriend, too, Jack. After his colleague Dan White resigns, he changes his mind, but the mayor doesn't want to give him his old job back, upon which he assassinates him and Milk.
Gus Van Sant's biopic about Harvey Milk, the first elected gay public official in US history, is an honest, emotional, simple but standard film where the only non-mainstream element is found in the gay topic. Sean Penn plays the title hero with some stereotype, though he delivered a good and gripping performance. His life and the whole feel of the 70s could have been handled a lot better than here, where that overall vision is missing - basically, we could have found out a lot more from his character than only that he is a nice gay man - so the story really starts "cooking" only in the final act, especially in his energetic clash with politician John Briggs who was advocating that gay teachers should be banned from school because they might "teach kids to become gay" (upon which Milk asked him in a debate: "So how do you teach homosexuality? Is it like French?"). Such true stories about intolerance and gay civil rights are rarely talked about in the media or taught in history books, which is why at least some merit should be given to the hype that surrounded "Milk".