Monday, January 19, 2009
Thirsty? Go see MILK
This afternoon I saw MILK, the movie starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office. Sean Penn is pure genius in this role. I have seen him in many press interviews where he couldn't seem more bored. He acts withdrawn, aloof and in need of another cigarette. However, in this role, he was absolutely superb.
The movie opens with Harvey Milk alone at his kitchen table, with a tape recorder and microphone. He announces into the mic "In case I should be assassinated, here is what I would have wanted people to know". The movie cuts back and forth between clips of this narration, the actual scenes of the plot unfolding, and real news footage from those years. At first I was irritated by the news footage, but it does add a more realistic dimension as the film goes on.
The story of Harvey Milk involves a gay man who leaves New York City, drives across the country to San Francisco with his lover, in hopes of staring a new life in a place of greater acceptance. Harvey and his lover Scott (played by James Franco) open a camera store in San Fran.
Harvey and Scott become gay activists and grassroots organizers. Harvey runs for public office three times before finally winning a position in his fourth race. He owes much of his success to one of his best organizers, Cleaves Jones, played by Emile Hirsch.
Once in office, Harvey befriends the mayor, but suffers severe opposition from another city supervisor, Dan White (played by Josh Brolin). The entire second half of the movie is about passing one piece of legislation that would protect the rights of all gay people in the state of California.
Harvey is so consumed with his life in the political fast line, that he loses his long time lover and support system, Scott. Soon Harvey finds himself with a new lover, Jack, played by Diego Luna. Jack is passionate, and crazy, and too needy for the life Harvey leads. Many intense scenes result from their relationship.
The film is phenomenal and I don't want to give away the ending, so I will focus on the incredible performances of the cast. Sean Penn, a stoic man in real life, plays a passionate, animated, devoted activist who refuses to see anything but the good in people, and the brightness of the future. James Franco, who plays Harvey's lover of many years, wows with his total support and commitment of Harvey. Then breaks our hearts when he decides to leave. James rocks some pretty crazy hair dos and facial hair patterns in this movie. Kudos to him for fully embracing his character.
Emile Hirsch plays a young man who becomes energized by the movement, and ultimately serves as one of Harvey's biggest supporters. He too rocks some funky hair, as well as some LARGE glasses.
Diego Luna plays Harvey's second lover, Jack. Jack is bursting with unbridled passion, which ultimately leads to his demise. Josh Brolin plays Harvey's political nemesis, Dan White. His commitment to the role yields a stellar performance of a man tortured by the fear of a tarnished reputation. There was also a fantastic performance from Alison Pill who plays Harvey's campaign manager, and the only woman in his entourage.
If you enjoy films about politics or American History, you will surely love Milk. Its an inspiring story, portrayed by a fantastic cast. Go on now, grab a glass!