Almost 30+ years after Harvey Milks fight, when the issue has again risen to the forefront of state and national politics, Gus Van Sant offers a stunning portrayal of the history of gay rights. In fact it’s timing is almost a little too perfect for Milk. I think Gus Van Sant intentionally threw the vote to make a point. Well maybe not.
Detailing the inspiring story of Harvey Milk, writer Dustin Lance Black and director Gus Van Sant illustrates broader implications of social and political change. The path to change is never an easy one and is filled with far more failures to overcome than successes to celebrate. For Harvey, like many others who fight for something they believe in, they only reach their greatest accomplishments through much devastation. But it’s worth it.
That being said, let’s talk about the sex. Van Sant sets a new film standard: that there is NOTHING wrong with exhibiting homosexuality. With the longest guy-on-guy kiss in all of film history between Sean Penn and James Franco within the first 10 minutes of the film, he sets the stage for his in your face argument. Many directors would have backed off, for the sake of finding a middle ground, appealing to a mass audiences or selling tickets. Van Sant does not try to find a middle ground, because there is no middle ground to be found. Van Sant, like Milk, makes it very clear that he believes discriminating against gays, whether in film or in our legal system is WRONG and needs to be fought, and that nothing, religion, politics, money, or success changes that.
In many ways this film accomplishes what W. was lacking. Both films address the political issues currently taking place, but Milk does so with a firm hand. It has the ability to say, no we don’t understand your side of things because there is no understanding to be had. This film is unapologetic for it’s subject matter and it’s gay sex, because there is no reason to apologize. It’s in your face, honest and incredibly refreshing. All the people out their rallying Prop 8, this is a film to keep you going, to show you that the fight IS worth it and completely necessary.
As Harvey Milk says “this is not just an issue, this is our lives we are fighting for.” Today, is no different. This is not just an issue on a ballot, it’s an issue of human rights.
Now let’s get to the acting. What a cast. Every single character knocked it out of the park. I’m not sure if it’s Van Sant’s leadership or the AMAZING cast he rallied up, but they all do an absolutely wonderful job.
Sean Penn is stunning. Of course. I didn’t realize how accurate his portrayal of Harvey Milk was until I was able to compare him with footage of the real Harvey Milk speaking. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets an Oscar nod for his role. And speaking of Oscar nods, Josh Brolin, is getting good at playing the guy you hate. Every character he plays from W. to Dan White, is so complex and layered. He shows your the good in evil and the evil in good. Emile Hirsch, plays Cleve Jones, who is the only person in the film that is still alive and able to see the movie. I spoke with Jones and he said that he thought Emile did a wonderful job with the role and representing who he was and what he stood for, which is really the greatest compliment an actor in his position could get. Alison Pill, the token woman, is hard as nails and does a great job with the film.
Although the true scene stealers are James Franco and Diego Luna. Boy do they know how to cuddle up with the camera. The two of them have perfected the “come hither/I’m so cute” look. Franco is the man who opens Harvey’s eyes to change, and Luna is the one who shows him the consequences of it. Both of them are Milk’s lovers, but in two very different ways.
Overall I highly recommend this film. It’s a strong film that needs to be seen and now is the right time to see it. It is not afraid of the humor that naturally comes out of difficult circumstances and therefore keeps it from becoming to much like a docu-drama.
People have become to complacent and accepting of wrongs done to them by the government. We need to be reminded that it’s okay to fight, it’s what this country stands for.