I first heard the name Harvey Milk about a few years ago when a new high school for gay teens was being opened in Manhattan and stirred a lot of controversy. That school was named after Harvey Milk. The news said that he was an openly gay politician from San Franscisco.
I was a little remiss at the time because when I hear somebody mentioned who I know nothing about, I usually research them at a minimum on Wikipedia. I failed and the name Harvey Milk was filed deep in my brain until this movie starring Sean Penn won critical acclaim and an award for best actor in 2008. I still failed to do any research.
The other night I finally saw this film and it was a fascinating tale. It shed a lot of light on things that I vaguely heard about but never really thought about. I remember Anita Bryant from all the orange juice commercials she did but nothing about her crusade against the gay community. When we look back today, she definately looked ridiculous. Her time could have been better spent on doing something more productive with her time.
The movie explains how the gay movement began in San Francisco, where Harvey Milk opened a shop that catered to a mostly gay clientele. Pretty soon other gay run shops started opening on his street (Castro) and pretty soon many gays started moving to the area. Many of them had very sad stories of being abandoned by their families because of their preferences.
Eventually Harvey is encouraged to go into politics and crusade for rights to protect people against discrimination based on their sexual orientation. It is a fascinating study and we also see a lot of the dirty end of politics where favors are bought and traded. Josh Brolin is excellent and one of Harvey's political peers who keeps requesting favors from Harvey but does nothing to help Harvey's cause.
James Franco looking much different from his Harry Osbourne/James Dean look, plays Harvey's friend and lover (Scott). Scott puts a lot of pressure on Harvey to give up political ambitions and causes Harvey to have to make several tough decisions.
One can easily see why Sean Penn was an easy choice for his Oscar in this role. A first rate movie that should not be missed.
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