by Tony Medley
Run Time 128 minutes.
This is one of two recent
films that leftwing Hollywood can make and foist on an unsuspecting
public with impunity. The first was Oliver Stone’s “W.” that unfairly
lambasted a sitting U.S. President and his cabinet and advisors. This
one is an unabashedly adoring biography of gay activist San Francisco
politician Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) with all his halos. To put it another
way, if Harvey had any warts, this movie doesn’t show them. He’s
pictured as, in the words of the production notes, a “friend, lover,
unifier, politician, fighter, icon, inspiration, and hero.” That doesn’t
leave much more to qualify him for canonization. Ooops, actually that won’t
happen because the only people who canonize other people for the
sainthood are those in the Roman Catholic Church and Harvey wasn’t
exactly a friend of the church. The Church feels that homosexuality is
an immoral lifestyle and isn’t bashful about expressing this feeling.
But since the basic point
of this film is to glorify the politician who fought for its acceptance,
this film got the needed financing and A-list cast, headed by
Oscar®-winner Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, and Josh Brolin, and directed by
gay director Gus Van Sant. As such, one of Van Sant’s objectives seems
to be to promote homosexual relationships as mainstream, so his film has
a lot of scenes of two men kissing each other on the lips.
Van Sant’s film shows the
last eight years of Milk’s life, from age 40-48, starting when he picks
up Scott Smith (James Franco) in a New York Subway and ending when Dan
White (Josh Brolin) shoots him dead.
Not surprisingly, Van Sant
has inserted some bitchy scenes in the movie. For instance, he makes a
big deal of showing the Catholic baptism of the child of Supervisor Dan
White (Brolin) and his wife, and that Dan’s wife was less than thrilled
that Milk attended. Van Sant shows the entire ceremony. The only purpose
of this would seem to be to implant firmly in the viewers’ minds that
White, who ended up assassinating Milk and Mayor George Moscone (Victor
Barber), was a practicing Catholic. This film also has endless videos of
Anita Bryant who was a thorn in the sides of gay activists in the 1970s.
Everyone who opposes gay rights is shown as mindlessly bigoted,
especially John Briggs (Denis O’Hare), who ends up debating Milk near
the end of the film.
The film would have been
much more trustworthy if it gave credit to people who have a good faith
belief that the homosexual lifestyle is immoral and who feel that
admiration for that lifestyle should not be imposed on others and their
families and children. But those on the other side of this issue are all
painted as unreasonable zealots. Not only that, but just about every
minute of this film comes across as preaching. This doesn’t seem to be a
very good marketing position since recent elections show that the
majority of people, while tolerant of what people do in the privacy of
their own home, frown on the gay lifestyle and don’t want it imposed on
their children. Who wants to go see a movie that disparages a moral
position of the viewer?
But while those who feel
the gay lifestyle immoral are painted as zealots, all those advocating it are
shown as reasonable, understanding people.
Van Sant and his cohorts do
their cause a great disservice by presenting such an unbalanced picture.
Maybe Milk was a wonderful person, but when the presentation is so
biased, it’s difficult to lend credence to this conclusion.
Even though Penn takes
another shot at crying on screen, he still can’t muster up real tears.
He has learned, though, because in this film when he cries he covers up
his face with his hands, so his tearless wailing isn’t as laughable as
it was in “Mystic River” (2003), because he won’t let us see the lack of
tears. Sean is no dummy.
While Penn gives a good
performance, capturing Milk’s gay mannerisms, the other actors seem to
have been cast in accordance with their physical resemblance to the real
people they were playing. Emile Hirsch, for example, plays Cleve Jones,
and he looks a lot like the real Jones at that age. There are stills of
the real people shown under the closing credits, so the audience gets a
comparison between the actors and the people themselves. They are all
I was looking forward to
this film because I like biopics. However, in part because of its
biased, unbalanced ideological slant, I found it disappointing. But
worse, it is extraordinarily boring. Maybe it was because the cards were
stacked so significantly to make Milk out to be the iconic hero alleged
in the production notes. But was he a hero? Or just gay? In the end, the
movie is more about his being gay than anything else.
If you’re gay, you’ll
probably love this. If you’re not, you’ll probably be like me and
fighting slumber throughout its better than two hour run time.
November 25, 2008