George V. Reilly

Review: Milk

Title: Milk
Director: Gus van Sant
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Copyright: 2008

Milk was a middle-aged closet case who moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s, became po­lit­i­cal­ly active, and started running for office, un­suc­cess­ful­ly at first. “The Mayor of Castro Street” was elected to the San Francisco Board of Su­per­vi­sors in 1977, the first openly gay man to hold public office in the United States. A year later, only days after the anti-gay Cal­i­forn­ian ballot initiative, Propo­si­tion 6, went down to defeat, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were murdered by ex-Supervisor Dan White.

Sean Penn is convincing as Harvey Milk, an ordinary man who became an im­pas­sioned gay activist and an in­spi­ra­tional leader, un­apolo­getic about his sexuality. Both during his life and after, Milk’s example leads other people to come out and stop hiding. Milk’s relentless focus on politics costs him his personal life, driving away first one lover, then another.

Josh Brolin plays Dan White, not as a car­i­ca­tured villain, but as a confused and angry man, who has a difficult working re­la­tion­ship with Milk.

Van Sant has created a believable and gripping biopic, showing the burgeoning gay rights movement in the brief, golden decade between the Stonewall riots and AIDS.

Milk is certain to earn some Oscar nom­i­na­tions.

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