MILKHis life changed history. His courage changed lives.
By Adam Frazier
moving to San Francisco, 40-year-old Harvey Milk became a Gay Rights
activist and political hopeful. On his third attempt, he was elected to
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in 1977, making him the first
openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States.
director Gus Van Sant ("Good Will Hunting") and screenwriter Dustin
Lance Black ("Big Love"), "Milk" is the first fictional feature to
explore the private aspects of Harvey Milk's personal life and career.
Though Milk has been the subject of several books, as well as the
Academy Award-winning documentary feature, "The Times of Harvey Milk"
(1984), it is in this film that his humanity is brought to the
forefront - with the help of Sean Penn.
Throughout the film's
128-minute length, Penn makes sure the vulnerability, insecurity,
empathy and pure determination of Harvey Milk are impeccably displayed.
Penn never creates a perfect superhero but instead embodies a
multifaceted individual who became a crucial part of the Gay Rights
Milk had a habit of opening speeches with the line,
"My name is Harvey milk, and I want to recruit you." He was a man who
sought out others and had lengthy discussions and conversations in
order to better understand them. In an impassioned speech, Milk
reminded the country of the truths it was founded on. "All men are
created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those
While the film is anchored by Sean Penn's powerful
performance, "Milk" is one of the more well-written, directed and acted
films to grace cinemas in a long time. 2008 has been a wonderful year
for film and performances, and no doubt has "Milk" quickly climbed to
the top of the list. It's a triumphant historical drama that delves
into the life of a man every bit as important as Martin Luther King or
John F. Kennedy, but seldom known outside of the Gay and Lesbian
Much like Ron Howard's "Frost / Nixon," this film
immediately submerges you in atmosphere of ‘70s America. Everything on
display in "Milk" has a subtle charm to it, even Josh Brolin's stifling
portrayal of fellow San Francisco Supervisor Don White. White's
family-oriented straight-laced homophobia fuels the ear-to-ear grins
and never-ending humanity of Penn's Milk.
"Milk" is no doubt Van
Sant's best film since 1997's "Good Will Hunting," though without Sean
Penn's award-worthy performance, I doubt it would amount to more than
your average biographical feature.
Even if you have no interest
in the subject matter, "Milk" is an inspiring and important motion
picture that should be seen. It's a film everyone can take something
positive from, and in this day and age, that is a rarity in itself.