Milk comes at a time when our nation seems to be going backwards. It comes at a time when civil rights are being questioned in the homosexual community. Even the usually reliable state of California voted to ban gay marriage in the last election. There are a lot of issues to consider in the world right now, including two wars and a failing economy, but one of the most important, yet least valued, is gay rights. If even one person or group is denied their civil rights, then we as a country have failed and unfortunately, that seems to be the case. We've turned our back on the homosexual community and told them that they aren't equal to us. Milk knows this and creates a riveting and Oscar-worthy film that will be ignored by the homophobic and hate filled citizens of America, although they are the ones who need to see it most. Milk is one of the best pictures of 2008.
The film follows the true story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected into public office. It is set in the 1970's, at a time when homosexuals were struggling for civil rights. This was a time when a bill was being voted on that would fire homosexual teachers. This was a time when gays couldn't even walk down the street without the fear of somebody attacking them. It's one of the most shameful times our country has dealt with, but most don't view it as such, probably because it's still going on today. As with any good biopic, it chronicles the life and times of Mr. Milk, including his accomplishments, his rise, and his inevitable fall. An outed gay man and an advocate for gay rights, his story is truly uplifting and inspiring, yet tragic and heartbreaking at the same time.
If I learned anything about gay rights from the film, I learned that homosexuals had it much worse 30 years ago than they do today and that we've come a long way. Compared to what was going on during that time period, our recent bigotry and homophobia really doesn't seem so bad. But as the film knows and points out, we have got to shape up and the only way to do that is to allow equal rights to all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. The film's main target, outside of battling politicians, are Christians, and for good reason. Most of Harvey Milk's opposition in San Francisco came from Christian activists who hid behind the Bible to justify their intolerance and bigotry. Considering that the majority of the nation does that today by not allowing homosexuals their human born right to marry, the film creates an intelligent allegory of modern times.
I've talked a lot about gay rights and why we need to stop being so narrow-minded and accept them as they are, but that's only because that is the whole point of the film. It's relevance in today's society is powerful and far-reaching and as such, this is the most important film to be released all year. However, that isn't all the picture has to offer.
The performances are extraordinary. Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, and James Franco are excellent and I believed every second they were on-screen, but nobody can match what Sean Penn did in this movie. His performance is brilliant as Harvey Milk and it's one of those rare instances where you stop seeing the actor and you start seeing the person he's playing. There's a long list of great performances this year, including Heath Ledger as the Joker in this summer's blockbuster, The Dark Knight, and here is another one you can add to that list. Sean Penn hit perfection in this role. Be on the lookout for his Oscar nomination.
Milk is as good a biopic as I've ever seen. It's hard to express how marvelous this film is, but when you couple the powerful and socially relevant message with Sean Penn's phenomenal performance and Gus Van Sant's good direction, you have one of the most moving films to be released in recent memory. It's one of those movies that is so emotionally powerful and hard-hitting that no noticeable negatives come to mind. It's nearly perfect in every way and is easily one of the top three films I've seen all year. It will open your eyes to the injustices that face the homosexual community and will touch you to the point of tears. Milk is unforgettable.
Milk receives 5/5