Rated – R
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Alison Pill
I guess I’m a little ashamed that I never heard of Harvey Milk’s story until seeing this film, because it’s certainly a story worth knowing. In 1977, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States of America. And on November 27, 1978 Harvey Milk was assassinated (no I did not just spoil the movie, it’s a bio-pic).
The film is brilliantly shot and beautifully written. We see Harvey Milk at 48 years old retelling his life accomplishments into a tape recorder. He was merely a homosexual hippie who wanted to make a difference in San Francisco. But he understood that he had to change his physical and emotional outlook to achieve the push of equality for gays in the world. Even if it looked like he submitted to the machine with his greased hair and suit and briefcase, which he was completely opposed to once, he knew there was a bigger objective to be accomplished.
And he did it all. He was elected to the Board of Supervisors where he finally had power. He pushed as hard as he could for gay rights, especially against Proposition 6 (a referendum that would give school boards the power to fire gay teachers).
This is one powerful film that displays the importance of civil rights and equality, whether it be sexual preference, race, gender, religion, etc. We, as a country, have made a lot of progress from the past but there are still miles to go to rid of prejudice.
The award-winning performance of Sean Penn is outstanding. He’s one of those rare actors who can show a different color every film he dives into. He is truly one of the great talents that Hollywood will ever encounter. And there’s a lot to say for the supporting cast who complimented Penn’s Milk perfectly. From Franco who plays Milk’s hurt boyfriend who leaves when the pressure of campaigning overtook their relationship, to Brolin’s White who was Milk’s political opponent and eventual assassin, the ensemble cast was second to none.
Milk isn’t only a great film, it’s an important one. In a time when change is imminent and hope is essential, Milk pushed these two things relentlessly throughout his political career. “You gotta give ’em hope.” He absolutely did that.