So we’ve come to the final film in Politic-a-thon 2, and I think it’s best to end with another excellent film looking at gay rights activism in the 1970s, Gus Van Sant’s Milk. I feel this is the best film to end with because of how important stuff presented in the film is today with homosexuality being illegal in numerous countries, Uganda only just decriminalising homosexuality and gay marriage being a major topic in US politics and as such, Harvey Milk is still just as important a figure now as he was in the 1970s.
The film focuses on the work of Harvey Milk in the gay rights community in San Francisco in the 1970s, mainly his efforts to get elected as city supervisor, which made him the first openly gay man elected into office in California. After he is elected, we see the efforts he made in public office, mainly in regards to his working relationship with Dan White. We also see the relationships he has along the way, the main ones being Scott Smith and Jack Lira, which help to flesh out Milk’s character. What I really like is that the film doesn’t fully idealise Harvey Milk, it shows that he has made loads of mistakes, that he does neglect people that he cares about and does break promises that he makes to people. All of these serve to make Milk more human and allows the audience to relate to him a lot more. I also really like the framing device of Milk recording his will, putting this feel of contemplation over the entire film which helps make it more powerful as a result. I also really like the focus the film gives on all the anti-gay legislation that was being implemented at the time, indicating that the fight Milk has been fighting is still going on, and this stuff was especially timely at the time the film was released due to Proposition 8. The relationship between Milk and White is handled great as well, indicating the political maneuvers that Milk had to make and how some alliances that are formed in politics are broken in order to get certain pieces of legislation passed.
The cast is excellent as well, headed up by a career best turn by Sean Penn as Milk. He shows the respect and love that he has for the gay community and for his lovers with this great caring nature all the way through the film, along with a keen political mind that lets you know how passionate he is about the gay rights cause and that he knows the best way to make it appeal to the public. James Franco is great as Scott Smith, also showing this great caring nature, but also this sense of jealousy towards politics and the fear that he will lose Milk. Diego Luna meanwhile shows the vulnerability of Vira, which makes what happens to him all the more powerful. All of the relationships in the film work because Penn has great chemistry with Franco and Luna, showing why the couples form and how they last as long as they do. Josh Brolin as Dan White meanwhile shows a great deal of resentment towards Milk, not only through White’s conservatism clashing with Milk being gay but also the sense of betrayal over Milk not siding with him on an issue. He also shows that there was a willingness to work with Milk at first but this blew over because of the inherent conflict between the two. There are also great performances from Allison Pill, Emile Hirsch, Victor Garber and Denis O’Hare rounding out a brilliant cast.
Overall, Milk is an excellent film and the perfect film to end Politic-a-thon 2. All of the messages and themes that are presented in Milk are as relevant today as they were in the 1970s and the great script and performances highlight just how radical Harvey Milk just being in office was at the time and the difficulties that the LGBT community faced at the time which help make this a very important film.
My Rating: 5/5
So that’s it for Politic-a-thon 2. It was really interesting going through all of these films and looking at the different political and historical contexts behind the events of each film. Hopefully I will be able to do another one of these next year