The story of Harvey Milk, a political activist and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.
“Milk” first and foremost does an amazing job of dropping your right into the time period. By combining simple camera tricks to make the footage appear older at times and actually splicing in footage from news sources that covered the events the movie is about it becomes hard at times where the movie ends and history begins until the two are one in the same. This allows the movie to fully transport you back into the 70’s during the heart of the gay rights movement. Not only that but the actors portraying the various characters in this film look almost like carbon copies of their real life personas. Sean Penn as Harvey Milk gives an amazing performance capturing the essence of the late Harvey Milk and his ever present smile. The film along with being about Harvey’s political career also covers his personal and romantic life. Rather than distracting from the main plot this allows you to get to know Harvey as more than just the political figurehead he grew to be but instead as the fully realized person he was, again helped by the stellar acting skills of Sean Penn.
The film suffers from some pacing issues, lagging a bit in the middle. You can see where the plot is headed and want it to get there so you can see what will happen but instead have to wait through some less than interesting scenes. I understand that this is a true story and therefore some things may have been kept in for the sake of continuity with real life happenings but this does not keep it from losing a bit of my attention.
I am not sure if the speeches that Sean Penn gives as Harvey Milk are taken verbatim or are entirely fabricated but in either case these speeches are what tie the movie together, inspiring you the viewer in the same way they inspire the crowds. If there is one thing this movie does well it’s to humanize the gay rights movement and to show that the people who are looked down upon by some sections of society are not monsters, but are in fact just like them, a message Harvey was trying to get across during his time in office. Both inspiring and heartbreaking “Milk” makes for a fantastic viewing experience and look back at a far more inhumane time, it makes me glad to live in the time period I do, as well as the state I do. I give “Milk” an 8/10
Available on Netflix DVD through the mail