Milk (2008) – REVIEW

by Jordache Wee

Release Date: November 26, 2008
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Language: English
Music by: Danny Elfman
Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, Alison Pill, Victor Garber, James Franco

The opening scene begins with Harvey Milk’s archival footage of his tape synchronising the police raiding gay bars and arresting patrons during the 1950s and 1960s, followed by Dianne Feinstein’s November 27, 1978, announcement to the press that Milk and Moscone have been assassinated. Milk is seen recording his will throughout the film, nine days (November 18, 1978) before the assassinations.

Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) with Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber)

Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) and Smith decide to move to San Francisco in the hope of finding larger acceptance of their relationship. They opened Castro Camera in the heart of Eureka Valley, a working class neighborhood in the process of evolving into a predominantly gay neighborhood known as The Castro. Frustrated by the opposition they encounter in the once Irish-Catholic neighborhood, Milk utilizes his background as a businessman to become a gay activist, eventually becoming a mentor for Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch). Earlier, Smith works as Milk’s campaign manager, but left Milk because of Milk’s devotion to politics.

Milk and friends

After two unsuccessful political campaigns in 1973 and 1975 to become a city supervisor and a third in 1976 for the California State Assembly, Milk finally wins a seat in San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 for District 5. His victory makes him the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in the United States.

Dan White (Josh Brolin) confronts Milk

He meets fellow Supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin), a Vietnam veteran and former police officer and firefighter. White, who is politically and socially conservative. Therefore he is uncomfortable working with a gay person like Milk. He has a resentment for Milk, most likely from the attention paid to Milk by the press and his colleagues.

Milk is invited to, and attends, the christening of White’s first child, and White asks for Milk’s assistance in preventing a psychiatric hospital from opening in White’s district, possibly in exchange for White’s support of Milk’s citywide gay rights ordinance. When Milk fails to support White, White feels betrayed, and ultimately becomes the sole vote against the gay rights ordinance.

On the morning of November 27, 1978, White enters San Francisco City Hall through a basement window to conceal a gun from metal detectors. He requests another meeting with Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber), who revokes his request for re-appointment. White shoots Moscone and then Milk on the same day.

It ends with candlelight vigil held by thousands for Milk and Moscone throughout the streets of the city.

Reviewer’s Note:
Harvey Milk is an openly gay till he was shot down before he can continue his campaign. However his fight for gay rights has left a legacy to help people to raise awareness not to mistreat others but accept who they are.

It’s biopic film to educate people not to discriminate other genders whether they gays and lesbians. After all, they are human beings with opposite attracts.

Sean Penn has taken his act to a whole new level delivering a good and powerful speech depicting the late Harvey Milk. Both James Franco and Emile Hirsch have chosen to play their parts carefully as they portrayed important supporting roles in Harvey Milk’s life.

Absolutely brilliant film!


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