Movie Review: Milk (2008)

Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsche, Josh Brolin and James Franco

Directed by: Gus Van Sant

The true story of Harvey Milk told from his 40th birthday to the day of his death in 1978. Harvey comes out of the closet and leaves New York for San Fransisco where he opens up a camera shop before becoming a political activist for gay rights and being the first openly gay elected official in California.

Milk is a truly well made biopic of Harvey Milk who was an amazing human being who had an amazing story to tell. He’s an inspiration to many and his story is an important one to be told as he will go down in history as a revolutionary within the gay community being the first openly gay elected official in California.

Sean Penn stars as the leading role of Harvey Milk and is fantastic and thoroughly deserved his Academy Award win. Initially I was a little disappointed that Mickey Rourke didn’t scoop up the prize for The Wrestler but after watching this movie I finally understand why he didn’t get the nod. To be honest most of the cast are great and Penn is supported by tremendous performances from Emile Hirsch and James Franco who deserve just as much praise. The story is compelling, especially the second half where the political activism truly gets under way and he gets elected into office. The way in which the story was told having Harvey narrating and recording his story encase of an assassination attempt which received regularly really added to the depth of the character and the tragic nature of Harvey’s story and how it came to such a harrowing early end. The way the movie looked was great as well, the sets and the costume design were both spot on and I like the inclusion of real footage from the time also, added to the realism of the story.

Despite their being some great acting displays on show I was a little disappointed that the first half of the movie was quite slow and wasn’t as impactful as the second portion. The first half focused on Harvey Milk and his boyfriend Scott as they make the big move to San Fransisco from New York and try and fit in to a an always changing diverse city. While there were some aspects that I found interesting, I wasn’t fully hooked until he made his entrance into the world of politics. Also, for a man of such importance, not just in the gay community but within American politics I felt the story didn’t do him justice. While the story that was told was good, it just wasn’t great which is something I had expected.

Overall, Milk showcased some brilliant displays of acting from the majority of the main cast and the story was good but should’ve been a lot better for such an important biopic.


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