Feb 8, 2009

Milk

Milk is wonderful. That much is true. It is also inspirational, warm, funny and very moving. Of the films receiving acclaim at the moment in this awards season I believe it is the best. The most complete. The true and sad story of Harvey Milk is beautifully captured by director Gus Van Sant. He elicits wonderful performances to create a truly remarkable cinematic experience.

Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) is a closeted homosexual living in New York with his boyfriend Scott Smith (James Franco). It is 1972 and at the age of 40 he feels unfulfilled and stale. So Harvey and Scott move to San Francisco and locate to the growing gay district of The Castro. He opens a camera store, which soon turns into the political centre of The Castro. Despite San Francisco being a relatively open city there is still stark discrimination and hostility directed at the gay community. Harvey decides a life of action is what he needs. He runs for public office to enable the gay community to receive their just and human rights. His friends become his political team, rallying behind him and his cause. One in particular is especially dynamic. Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch) matures into a committed and passionate advocate. As Harvey battles three times to become a City supervisor, we see a lot of real footage mingled into the film. It gives us a true perspective of the times as intolerance and prejudice is clearly alive and well in 70's America. Harvey eventually becomes a City Supervisor, where he comes head to head with the arch conservative Dan White (Josh Brolin). This is, of course, a true story and if you know the story, you will know how it ends. Yet, the end is still shocking and very sad. There were not a lot of dry eyes in the cinema I was in at the finale.

Gus Van Sant has once again given the world a great cinematic experience. The film is full of warmth and humour and a true sense of reality. It is political, but also gives us a true human experience. The cast are wonderful, with Penn especially great as the multi facted Milk. It is a richly nuanced performance, full of grit and honesty. Brolin is also great as a man battling his demons and delivers a starkly grim turn. This is truly a special film, one to be embraced and enjoyed with all your heart.

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