Saturday, 23 November 2013

Milk (2008) - ★★★★½

Director: Gus Van Sant
Writer: Dustin Lance Black
Stars: Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Alison Pill, Victor Garber

Milk is one of the most important films ever made. This is a film I believe every gay and lesbian youth should see. It's brutal in its depiction of homophobia in the 1970s, it's unflinchingly honest in the way it represents the homosexual community at the time, and it is filled with powerful moments and speeches that support the LGBT community. Sean Penn won an Oscar for playing Harvey Milk, the first openly gay US politician. I believe it is his greatest performance, and one of the best Oscar winning performances of all time. This film may even change the minds of the naive, misinformed, or unsure anti-gay crowd. Milk shows the world a small, but utterly significant chapter of US history. It was an extremely emotional cinematic experience for me.

This film is about the life and times of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn). Spanning from the late 1960s to his untimely death, we get to see the significant events and personal relationships that led to Milk becoming a great pioneer of the gay rights movement.

The speech that gave me chills and shed a tear. 
"All men are created equal." The first time I truly became aware of this powerful line was in the film To Kill a Mockingbird, when Atticus Finch defended a wrongly accused African-American man in court. That was one of the most significant moments in the history of cinema. 46 years later, we hear it again, but from a real historical figure. When Harvey Milk delivered that speech to empower the gays and lesbians of the world, it gave me a profound sense of joy. It was extremely emotional for me, because these were men and women like me who had to fight for the rights that I have today. This scene is one of the all time greatest in the history of film.

Beneath the unforgettable moments throughout the film, there is Sean Penn. He made all of this possible, with his seamless, sensitive, and realistic portrayal of Milk. Right down to the fine details, from hand gestures to slight smirks, from posture to the way he walks, Penn just became this man. Never once did I see him as Sean Penn. I was watching Harvey Milk. Many say Mickey Rourke should have won the Oscar for his performance in The Wrestler. All I can say is, that must be one hell of a performance to top Sean Penn's. I couldn't imagine anyone playing Milk better than him.

The supporting performances were brilliant, and each had their part to play. James Franco gave one of his most mature and believable performances as the long-time partner of Harvey. The first time I ever truly took him seriously as an actor was when I saw him in the trailer of Milk many years ago. Josh Brolin gave a sensitive, sympathetic, yet utterly chilling performance as a right-wing political friend AND enemy of Milk. I didn't know what part he had to play, but by the climax, every single scene with Brolin made total sense. The only performance and character I didn't like was played by Diego Luna. He was a very effeminate, stupid, and annoying man that loved and leached off of Milk, who loved him back. I don't know what it is about Luna, but he almost always annoys me.

Each scene was meticulously shot. You could tell that every single camera movement had either a historical or artistic purpose, to represent a real moment or a feeling. The usage of real footage, real photographs, and real dialogue made the message of the film have an enormous impact. We got to see exactly WHY they're fighting for equal rights, because the brutality and injustice was sickening to behold. At the very start of the film, we see footage of popular gay-bars getting raided by police, and gay men being loaded into the back of police vans. Seeing this happen straight away, it absolutely made my blood boil. Then it took me beyond anger. It was one of the most tragic sequences I've ever seen in film. Seeing gay men being persecuted, just because of their sexuality... need I say more?

Milk really stirred me emotionally. It took me to a time and a place where people fought against injustice, and gave HOPE to the young men and women who were confused about being gay. I can't stress how important this film really is. While I loved learning about the man Harvey Milk, it was the powerful message of human rights and equality that truly made this a masterpiece.

1 comment:

  1. boring, anti-inspirational, lethargic, empty, knew less leaving than when I came in, tired, drab, forgettable, fully expect its immediate fall into obscurity, think less of everyone who became a part of putting this thing together, bland, hope I didn't pay money to see this when it came out,