Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin
Sean Penn plays gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk with sincerity and conviction; an oscar worthy performance that will reincarnate this hero with much deserved contemporary notoriety.
Let us rewind to 1969 New York City:
The Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village spark the birth of the Gay Liberation movement, and Harvey Milk – on the brink of forty, begins life again; this time with a strong sense of purpose.
The film begins with a provocative pass made on the steps of a NYC subway stop. Milk, immediately entranced with stranger Scott Smith (James Franco), titillates the young hot man back to his apartment to celebrate an otherwise lonely 40th birthday.
Playful in bed, the two men become fast lovers and within a short time decide to travel cross country and plant their roots in hippie land; San Francisco.
Supposedly the liberal mecca of that time, they are shocked to encounter prejudice – and especially so in the vibrantly gay Castro District.
What begins as a casual gathering of likeminded folk at Milk and Smith’s camera shop, quickly gains momentum wherein the business of selling cameras takes a back seat to a passionate political movement.
While running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, it becomes abundantly clear that Milk’s energy is now 90% devoted to politics, and as a result his love life with Smith soon falters.
It is remarkable to watch the hard edged rebel Penn, completely transform into tender, soft spoken Milk, who perseveres through each defeat with a smile. Doing the character great justice, audiences will surely stand behind Penn as Milk, understanding that this is a man with little personal agenda in politics and complete devotion to the cause. Penn convinces us that Milk embodied an overwhelming empathy to fellow homosexuals, especially the young and isolated. While being akin to a nun with good intentions, we are also privy to an impressively sexual driven animal.
Nearly impossible to assume that chemistry would be contagious between the very masculine Penn and Franco, audiences will without a doubt be impressed and shocked with how touching their romantic relationship is.
Watching their break up is sad, but mixed with excitement and understanding that Milk is on the cusp of making historical change.
Looking for a distraction from the seriousness, Milk takes on a new lover who is silly, flighty but spicy in bed. What is not realized is the vulnerability of exotic boy toy, Jack Lira (Diego Luna).
Already complicated and ridden with obstacles Milk also faces constant struggle with conservative politician Dan White (Josh Brolin), who ultimately murders Milk out of rage driven contempt. The dynamic between Penn and Brolin, is equally as compelling as that with Franco. Brolin masters his role into a twisted, bent up, angry White that makes us feel tight and uncomfortable upon first introduction.
A pivotal point in history, this is an important film to go see that will hook you from the beginning and not just with Milk’s life, but all of the rich characters that surrounded him. MILK will captivate audiences and bring to life a vivacious time period that exerted absolute energy.