A surprisingly optimistic film of an assassinated politician
Dec 14, 2008
I just saw Milk at the alumni get-together this afternoon. Afterwards, one of Harvey's colleagues and fellow SF supervisor during his tenure, Carol Ruth Silver, did a little talk about the film's depictions. She said the film was right-on in its depictions of Harvey and of that 1970s era in San Francisco.
One of the surprising things Silver revealed was that Dan White had also targeted her on the morning of the Moscone-Milk assassinations at City Hall. After the first two assassinations, he was looking for her and another supervisor. Luckily, she had decided to have an extra cup of coffee that morning and did not arrive in time. It seemed like White's agenda extended beyond only Harvey, but much of the City Hall.
Having just moved to San Francisco, the film gave me a glimpse of the city's history. I thought that it made excellent use of opera soundtrack to depict how the '70s was this sort of lush, flowering renaissance of openness and acceptance — at least within the rigid confines of the Castro neighborhood anyway.
For being noted as an actor who does so many "heavy" roles, I thought it was a great change of pace for Sean Penn here. Not that depicting Harvey is any lightweight stuff, but his portrayal of the politician was light, joyous, and optimistic. It was wonderful to see.
Milk is Sean Penn's best-sustained performance since Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I'm not joking and I mean it as high praise. Penn, at least in those movies of his I've seen, starts strongly and then dives head first into that famous Penn intensity that some consider acting with a capital "A." In Milk, Penn early establishes Milk as smart, empathetic, self-aware, even gentle, playful and lovable. Penn doesn't lose those qualities, and adds … more
By all accounts, Harvey Milk was a breath of fresh air, the light in the room, the life of the party. By "all accounts", I mean that's what Dennis Peron said when I asked him. I had the interesting experience of staying at the home of one of Harvey's friends and fellow activists in the Castro during the filming of the movie. Peron makes only a very brief appearence in the movie, but he was very excited about it and (when I could get him to stop talking about the medical marijuana … more
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 … more
If you've ever seen a biopic of Martin Luther King Jr. or John F. Kennedy (or his brother), you're probably familiar with the standard arc: the hero as a child, then a struggling young adult, the sensitive woman who stood by his side, etc. Milk immediately distinguishes itself by starting at a point when the main character, Harvey Milk, is already a middle-aged middle management flunky. Where did he come from? What's his family like? Did he pass A.P. Calculus in high school? We don't know. … more
Contrary to what you might have been led to believe, Harvey Milk was not one of the most influential politicians who ever lived. He assumed public office in his late forties. He held that position less then a year before he was killed by a fellow politician. Truthfully, if you were to look at the biggest thing he accomplished, it would be that he got people to start picking up their pets droppings in public. Yes, the biggest law he helped get pasted involved poop. So if this was his greatest claim … more
Sean Penn does it again and easily delivers one of his best performances bringing to life a character and a man we no longer have, and may never see again. This is a cast filled with genuine legends like Penn & Brolin, and up and coming megastars such as Emile Hirsch and James Franco. Each and every cast member seems to give it their all in keeping loyal to their played roles character in order to play an honest homage to this legendary figure. Gus Van Sant, is a relatively unknown Director … more
I have to say honestly that when I learned Sean Penn would play Harvey Milk in this film, I had great trepidation. Don't get me wrong; I'm a huge fan of Sean Penn. Anyone who can create the character he plays in Dead Man Walking and also be the Sam of I Am Sam is just brilliant. But a gay politician??? Sean Penn?? And yet... Penn is brilliant once again. One of the great aspects of this tightly woven drama is the interspersing of real, not re-created, … more
This is an important movie. I feel like everyone should see this now. Unfortunately I didn't know much about Harvey Milk before seeing this movie but wow, what an important and beautiful person he was! And what a tragic way for his life to end. I will admit it, the ending made me cry. For some reason it took me a bit to get into the movie but once I was into it I was INTO it. Movies are always wonderful to watch but when they are based on real people they become something … more
MILK is a biopic about Harvey Milk, a homosexual political activist who moved back to San Francisco in 1972 and after several losing campaigns was eventually elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. The film is a pasteurized biopic that begins on Harvey Milk's (Sean Penn's) birthday and his move to San Francisco with his then lover, Scott Smith (James Franco). Upon arriving in the city, the couple opens a camera … more
Director Gus Van Sant brings to the screen the epic journey of one man and the start of a movement. Written by Dustin Lance Black the story of Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay elected official, a San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated, on November 27, 1978, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone by San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.