Milk (15)

Film

milk.lores.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Jan 20 2009

Gus Van Sant has emerged from the bold experiments of his last four films to make a more conventional but no less daring, intelligent or thrilling film about America’s first openly gay elected politician, Harvey Milk. Partly a joyful document of San Francisco’s 1970s gay movement as seen through the life and work of one local civil rights campaigner, ‘Milk’ is also a memorial to a coming-together of people under one flag and a punch in the face of those who still hold back the pace of progress with initiatives like the recent Proposition 8. By making a film that’s solidly political but also touchingly personal, Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black have achieved something similar to Larry Kramer’s Aids play ‘The Normal Heart’ in the mid-’80s: a story of campaigners that puts real gay relationships, and the conflict between public protest and private love, at its heart. Only this time it’s the death of one man, not thousands, that colours the drama.

Milk was an exuberant New Yorker who moved to San Francisco in his early forties, opened a camera store in the city’s burgeoning gay district and, on his third attempt in 1977, was elected to the board of city supervisors. Milk served only 11 months before he and the city’s liberal mayor George Moscone were shot in their offices, but he built a strong reputation, not least as a voice in opposition to senator John Briggs’s Proposition 6, aiming to ban gays from teaching in schools.

Milk’s death inspired a candlelit march on the streets of San Francisco,  and in 1984 initiated an Oscar-winning documentary by Robert Epstein from which Van Sant takes many prompts. You can see, too, that Sean Penn has closely studied  Milk’s slightly awkward physical presence and upbeat attitude. Van Sant’s cinematographer, Harris Savides, also takes his cue from the archive: there’s so much real and recreated news footage in the film that he develops an evocative, grainy palette of muted colours to match it. Yet while documentary-style realism is mostly the order of the day Van Sant also mixes in more impressionistic, often music-filled moments, especially when focusing on Milk’s love life. Location is key: the filmmakers shot in  the streets of San Francisco, so we enjoy the same powerful sense of place as we did with the house in ‘Last Days’, or the high school in ‘Elephant’.

Van Sant reveals Milk’s death at the beginning, before leaping back to New York and his first encounter with partner Scott (James Franco). From there he plays it straight, only jumping forward to show Milk dictating a tape to be played in the event of his death. Tragedy is woven into the film’s lining, but the filmmakers avoid laying on any ideas of destiny or martyrdom, giving as much due to the movement as the man. The story is sad, but the mood is jubilant and the energy relentless.

Penn is a revelation as Milk. He’s always been a no-holds-barred actor, but this is another departure: his energy drives the story. Josh Brolin impresses, too, as Dan White, Milk’s conflicted conservative colleague at City Hall. But it’s also a great ensemble piece: Milk surrounded himself with friends, and actors like Emile Hirsch and Diego Luna add colour to a film that shows politics can offer more than one definition of the word ‘party’.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Jan 23, 2009

Duration:

128 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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LiveReviews|17
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Sutton

A wonderful film, brilliantly acted and uplifting. Penn was superb, as were the rest of the cast. It is a film that conveys tolerance and love and is quite moving at times, a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours.

Sutton

A wonderful film, brilliantly acted and uplifting. Penn was superb, as were the rest of the cast. It is a film that conveys tolerance and love and is quite moving at times, a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours.

TT

This is the first biopic film in recent history where I was moved by how the person lived his life rather than how the actors delivered true-to-life performance. Until this film was released, I didn't know about Harvey Milk or how he created the force of the movement out of his feeling that he hadn't achieved anything he was proud of on his 40th birthday. The film was filled with conversations that anyone from minority background can identify with. Feeling persecuted, afraid and powerless, they managed to channel that into a big social momentum and movement. I notice that there are several people here who gave a big thumbs down to this film, but I guess they must be from a truly privileged background who felt no reason to stand up to challenge the system although I understand that sometimes you need to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate a film like this. If you are a gay, lesbian or bisexual, just shut up and go and see it. You'll definitely find something to take home with. I certainly better appreciate the liberty and general social acceptance we take for granted today and how fragile these can be given the history of the fight they had to fight so hard.

TT

This is the first biopic film in recent history where I was moved by how the person lived his life rather than how the actors delivered true-to-life performance. Until this film was released, I didn't know about Harvey Milk or how he created the force of the movement out of his feeling that he hadn't achieved anything he was proud of on his 40th birthday. The film was filled with conversations that anyone from minority background can identify with. Feeling persecuted, afraid and powerless, they managed to channel that into a big social momentum and movement. I notice that there are several people here who gave a big thumbs down to this film, but I guess they must be from a truly privileged background who felt no reason to stand up to challenge the system although I understand that sometimes you need to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate a film like this. If you are a gay, lesbian or bisexual, just shut up and go and see it. You'll definitely find something to take home with. I certainly better appreciate the liberty and general social acceptance we take for granted today and how fragile these can be given the history of the fight they had to fight so hard.

al

I don't know how anyone can say this film is boring or uninteresting, especially after 1 min, what did you actually see?. The direction from Gus was great and more accessible than his recent work, the acting, the portrayal of a time partly achieved by the interspersing of real clips, and the structure were brilliant. But perhaps most importantly the film was just damn enjoyable and far more interesting and engaging than all the other oscar nominations I have seen including The Reader which was a bit shit, samey and un-authentic, and slumdog millionaire which might be the best film of the year for a 10 year old who likes a fairytale "dressed up" with violence, bangin' tunes, plot devices that don't quite work, fast camera action and a nicely resolved happy bollywood dance number ending despite charting every level of child degradation possible, to keep them entertained... Maybe you would have been better off booking tickets for slumdog. It wasn't like this was even a slow or long film, e.g. The curious case of Benjamin button, it is around the same length as both mentioned and was filled with things happening whilst still allowing you to invest emotionally in the characters and their situation. And I thought as a political drama had far more to say and document than frost/Nixon. I thought it was a brilliant film in a year of shit oscar nominations, mind you, some of you will probably be wondering why the new Friday 13th wasn't nominated.

al

I don't know how anyone can say this film is boring or uninteresting, especially after 1 min, what did you actually see?. The direction from Gus was great and more accessible than his recent work, the acting, the portrayal of a time partly achieved by the interspersing of real clips, and the structure were brilliant. But perhaps most importantly the film was just damn enjoyable and far more interesting and engaging than all the other oscar nominations I have seen including The Reader which was a bit shit, samey and un-authentic, and slumdog millionaire which might be the best film of the year for a 10 year old who likes a fairytale "dressed up" with violence, bangin' tunes, plot devices that don't quite work, fast camera action and a nicely resolved happy bollywood dance number ending despite charting every level of child degradation possible, to keep them entertained... Maybe you would have been better off booking tickets for slumdog. It wasn't like this was even a slow or long film, e.g. The curious case of Benjamin button, it is around the same length as both mentioned and was filled with things happening whilst still allowing you to invest emotionally in the characters and their situation. And I thought as a political drama had far more to say and document than frost/Nixon. I thought it was a brilliant film in a year of shit oscar nominations, mind you, some of you will probably be wondering why the new Friday 13th wasn't nominated.

Marsellus

Great film. Have seen 3 of the 5 Oscar nominees for Best Film, the other two being Slumdog and Frost/ Nixon. So far, this is my pick for the award. A tragic, yet uplifiting story, propelled by great performances all round.

Marsellus

Great film. Have seen 3 of the 5 Oscar nominees for Best Film, the other two being Slumdog and Frost/ Nixon. So far, this is my pick for the award. A tragic, yet uplifiting story, propelled by great performances all round.

Nina

Wonderful. The acting, especially, particularly Sean Penn and the consistently underrated Josh Brolin, both of whom deserve Oscars (Brolin will almost certainly lose to a ghost, but he shouldn't.)

Nina

Wonderful. The acting, especially, particularly Sean Penn and the consistently underrated Josh Brolin, both of whom deserve Oscars (Brolin will almost certainly lose to a ghost, but he shouldn't.)

Tony Ward

An inspiring film which makes you realise what can be achieved with total belief in what you want to achieve. Sean Penn was magnetic and totally convincing and it portrayed the sacrifices Harvey Milk had to make. The photography making some scenes appear dated and the introduction of footage of some of the actual events was a stroke of genius. I was enthralled right through the movie - I laughed & I cried and I realised at the end that the film potrayed Milk as a great man in the mould of Ghandi & King giving his life to what he absolutely believed in.

Tony Ward

An inspiring film which makes you realise what can be achieved with total belief in what you want to achieve. Sean Penn was magnetic and totally convincing and it portrayed the sacrifices Harvey Milk had to make. The photography making some scenes appear dated and the introduction of footage of some of the actual events was a stroke of genius. I was enthralled right through the movie - I laughed & I cried and I realised at the end that the film potrayed Milk as a great man in the mould of Ghandi & King giving his life to what he absolutely believed in.

Phil Ince

Terrific performances of a thin script, filmed as a rather weak drama documentary. The crowd scenes have no force or feeling; most lacking is the penultimate one where Milk contrives to defuse a riot. Not a drop of tension. Sean Penn, Diego Luna and Josh Brolin are all immediately convincing as their respective characters; James Franco might be really good, too, but he's just too beautiful for his acting to be visible. It's impossible to tell whether or not he's any good. Not a bad film but a disappointing one, I thought.

sam

Just seen this with my wife as Slumdog full up. We walked out after 40mins it was boring dross. I have never been so unimpressed by a film ever. How the hell this has won oscar nominations is beyond me and our friends who persevered to the end said they it was aconstant battle not to drift into a coma.