Milk Movie Review
This past weekend I saw an incredible film that has a good chance at winning best movie of the year. The movie is Milk, starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, who became a Gay Rights activist and city politician. Harvey was elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 1977, making him the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the USA. Harvey’s story is both an inspiration, as well as a tragedy, for he and the city’s mayor was gunned down by another city supervisor who was so very jealous of Harvey’s popularity. Dan White blamed Harvey Milk for all his failures, and because he murdered Harvey in cold blood, he made Harvey a martyr to his cause.
Just as the rights of gay Americans was a very strong topic for the decade of the 70’s, over 30 years later, much of what Harvey Milk wanted for himself, and others like him still rings true today. After seeing Milk, whether or not you agree or don’t agree with the lifestyle Harvey led, you will leave with a better understanding how important human rights are to all human beings, regardless of sexuality, age, gender or race. Harvey fought for all these groups who were abused by the police, treated with distain by the politicians as well as the community who felt they were in their rights to treat those as second-class citizens. Just as Martin Luther King fought for civil rights in the 1950’s and 60’s, Harvey Milk fought for the rights of gay Americans in the 70’s. It is such a shame, for if he had lived, he would have accomplished so much more in the decades to come, perhaps even having a shot at becoming the President of the United States.
Milk begins with Harvey, played by the excellent, Sean Penn, in 1978 recording his biography into a take recorder to be played in case he is assassinated. He tells of how at the age of forty, while he was working in New York City, that he was living a lie. He was gay and kept this lifestyle hidden. Harvey felt he hadn’t accomplished anything worthwhile, and decides to throw caution to the wind and moves to San Francisco with his lover, Scott Smith, who is played by James Franco. Both Sean and James have incredible chemistry together, and their relationship as two men in love was a beautiful thing to watch. These men were not only lovers, but also the best of friends. When they arrive in San Francisco, Harvey decides to open a camera store. He is met with opposition from the local business owners because he of his sexual preference. But that does not stop Harvey. With a twinkle in his eye and a smile, he opens his store. From there he wants to make things better for the gay community. Along with the unions, he begins to stand up for those around him. Harvey becomes a role model to those who feel hopeless. He wants to help the young teen hustlers get off the street, and in a way becomes a father to these boys and men. One hustler, Cleve Jones, played by Emile Hirsch, is the most affected by Harvey. Some may recognize the name of Cleve Jones. By Cleve meeting Harvey, who changes his life, he eventually does something so amazing towards the understanding of HIV and the AIDS virus. What Cleve creates, is something so large that it can no longer fit together as one piece on the Mall in Washington D.C. (Can you guess what it is? Some of these pieces came to my college for the students to view)
Harvey begins to create a team of advisors, and plans to run for a seat on the Board of Supervisors for the city. It takes him three times, and when he finally is elected, it may seem to be a small feat, but to Harvey and his friends and associates, it is the beginning of acceptance, and the possibility to make some major changes in the United States. For one short year, Harvey does some incredible things for the gay community as well for the city of San Francisco. I would say that Harvey Milk is the reason so many have come out of the closet. He believed that a person should be proud of who they are and should not hide.
I felt like I was watching history with Milk. It touched upon so many important topics that again ring so true as we enter a new year. In 1977 it was a heated topic whether homosexuals should continue to teach in schools, or be fired from their job because of their sexual preference, as well as having equal housing. Today the question raised is about gay marriage and if that should be written into law. If Harvey was alive today, you can bet he would fight for that right.
The Sean Penn’s acting was spectacular, and don’t be surprised if he walks away with the Oscar for Best Actor. His portrayal of Harvey Milk was perfect as he showed Harvey’s joy and passion, as well as his beliefs.
There are not many movies that teach me a lesson, but Milk certainly opened my eyes. If there is one movie you should see before the year is over, Milk is definitely one of them
Final Grade: A+