Milk Gus Van Sant

Milk Gus Van Sant
It seems as though every fall, movie theatres are inundated with a plethora of dramatic films striving for Oscar contention. Within this crop of movies there’s always at least one biopic. Fortunately, Gus Van Sant’s Milk rises above the typical disingenuity of the genre — [cough] Walk the Line [cough] — instead fashioning a desperate, heartfelt docudrama.

It is as much a tribute to Harvey Milk — the first openly gay man voted into major public office in U.S. history — as it is an account of his life. While not an amazing film, Milk is certainly deserving of both attention and acclaim for its capable portrayal of an important American story.

Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk, from the age of 40 through to his tragic assassination eight years later. In 1972, Former lawyer Milk moved from New York to San Francisco with his lover Scott (James Franco). In response to the corruption of the SF police force, and the impending threat of singer Anita Bryant’s anti-gay movement, Milk ran for public office as a City Supervisor. After several defeats, Milk finally prevailed and in doing so provided a major victory for the gay civil rights movement.

Antagonistic fellow board member Dan White (Josh Brolin) opposed Milk on many issues, though ultimately his actions couldn’t silence the movement that became the bedrock of culture for gay Americans. The conclusion is so tragically bizarre that if it weren’t true the film would be ridiculed for its implausibility.

With Milk, Van Sant abandons his recent meditative, ambient approach to filmmaking in favour of a brisk, urgent execution that mirrors and enlivens the urgency of Harvey Milk’s activism. Penn once again sheds his irritating real-life persona, flawlessly embodying Milk. The film also employs a healthy amount of archival footage, which roots the story in authenticity and broadens its message.

One can’t help but imagine that an earlier release date for Milk might have convinced Californians not to vote for Proposition 8’s repeal of same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, Milk bristles with sincerity and optimism, putting the importance of its subject ahead of anything else. (Alliance)