Milk (2008)

milk poster 2008 movie sean penn
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Sean Penn, important story


Movie Info

Movie Name:   Milk

Studio:   Axon Films

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   October 28, 2008 (Premiere)/November 26, 2008 (US)

MPAA Rating:   R

milk harvey megaphone sean penn

You gotta fight for your rights!

Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) is out to create a change.  After meeting Scott Smith (James Franco), Milk realizes that gay rights are being trampled and that he has to change something.  Milk decides gays must be in office if they want to have rights and fight for them himself.  As Harvey manages to rise in San Francisco, Anita Bryant is rallying conservatives to vote against gay rights.  It is a battle that Harvey is willing to fight, but being a fighter could cost Harvey and make him a martyr.

Directed by Gus Van Sant, Milk is a biopic drama.  The film chronicles the political career and death of Harvey Milk (May 22, 1930-November 27, 1978) who became the first openly gay elected official before being assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by Dan White.  The film was released to critical acclaim and won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Sean Penn) and Best Original Screenplay with nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Josh Brolin), Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score.

milk scott smith harvey james franco sean penn

The best is of ahead of us…right?!?!

I had seen the Academy Award winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk and knew the story of Harvey Milk.  I admit that I’m not the biggest Sean Penn fan and wasn’t that interested in seeing a movie that you already know how it ends.  Despite that, Milk turned into a great film, and Sean Penn gives an admirable performance.

Though it is set in the 1970s, Milk is very topical (even ten years after its release).  The fight for civil liberties will never end and Milk shows the beginning of the public and political movement for gay rights.  The story doesn’t hide that Harvey Milk is killed at the end for people who don’t know the story, and it builds the tension leading to the moment instead.  It shows Harvey’s work and it makes him human for what was good about him and his faults (he was kind of a weasel at points)…making it a stronger biopic than many who just out and out glorify the subject.

milk harvey killed murdered dan white josh brolin sean penn

The Twinkies made me do it!

Sean Penn often plays Sean Penn in my opinion.  He’s very much like Jack Nicholson post The Shining…it is the Sean Penn grump-face.  Here, Penn is actually acting out of the character he created and as a result his performance is good.  You can forget you’re watching Sean Penn at times.  He’s got a nice strong supporting cast with Josh Brolin playing the heavy Dan White (who escaped prison with the legendary “Twinkie Defense”).  Emile Hirsh, Diego Luna, James Franco, Alison Pill, Denis O’Hare, and Victor Garber help round out the cast.

The movie does a good job with the styling of the late ’70s.  It has a real look to it, and the setting gives it weight.  Even with the stylized look, the movie doesn’t feel old so it can be accessible for everyone.

Milk is a stronger entry in the popular biopic genre.  The movie brings a story that remains important with a player that seems to become more important as the years pass and Milk is recognized for what he achieved and when he did it.  The climate of the United States and the world continues to change toward the LGBTQ movement, and Milk can be credited to one of the people who really started it.

Related Links:

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

The 81st Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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