‘Milk’ Biopic Takes Big Step Forward
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
There’s a new film called “Milk” – and it’s not brought to you by the American Dairy Council. This is a biopic about the late Harvey Milk, the first openly gay public official in California.
A few years back, when we were filming the documentary about the rainbow flag being unfurling on Duval Street (“Key West: City of Colors”), the flag’s creator Gilbert Baker reminisced with me about the late ’70s in San Francisco, when it looked like gays were making a foothold in mainstream politics with the election of Harvey Milk as San Francisco’s city supervisor. Then someone shot him.
Remember the “Twinkie Defense”?
Gilbert Baker had tears in his eyes as he recalled those fateful events.
Now California (along with Florida and other states) has voted to ban same-sex marriages. Two steps forward, three steps back.
Like a recent political cartoon said, “Imagine, a black man as President. It’s the end of discrimination in America!” And there in the background the cartoon shows separate drinking fountains marked “Straight” and “Gay.”
“Milk” – starring Sean Penn in the title role – is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
Sean Penn portraying a gay man? No, I’m not going to argue that gay roles should be given to gay actors – the way Native Americans object to white guys playing Indians in cowboy movies. Or the way many Asians objected to Mickey Rooney playing (badly) a Japanese character in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
I’ll leave that argument for my gay friends to raise.
After all, “Milk” was directed by Gus Van Sant, the openly gay filmmaker who also gave us “My Private Idaho” and “Good Will Hunting.”
Maybe we should count it as progress that “Milk” got made at all. And I’m glad that a fine actor like Penn was willing to slim down and take on this challenging role. The casting of an actor of Penn’s stature lends a deserved level of importance to the story.
Other hot actors show up here too. James Franco (“Pineapple Express” and the “Spider-Man” movies) as Milk’s earlier lover. Diego Luna (you saw him in “Mr. Lonely”) as his later lover. And Josh Brolin (who channeled George Bush in “W.”) as Dan White, the disgruntled ex-city employee who shoots both Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
The Advocate listed Harvey Milk as third on its list of “40 Heroes of the Twentieth Century.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein said, “His homosexuality gave him an insight into the scars which all oppressed people wear. He believed that no sacrifice was too great a price to pay for the cause of human rights.”
Recently, a Key West friend was complaining that there weren’t many good films about gays. I cited “The Walker,” but he’d hated its weak storyline (and that the gay guy had been played by straight-as-a-stick Woody Harrelson).
Well, here’s one to like.
[from Solares Hill]