Thursday, March 5, 2009

Milk - Sean Penn (2008)


I think Mickey Rourke should have won Best Actor.

There. I said it.

I just got back from seeing Milk and I have to say that Sean Penn is a great actor but I didn't think that this character was one of his best performances.

And Mickey Rourke was incredible in The Wrestler.

Yes, Milk is an important film about a pivotal time in our country's history. Yes, I am glad that I saw it. Yes, I am glad that it was made. And, yes, Harvey Milk was a very courageous and charismatic man.

But I just didn't think it was that good of a movie. There was no fire, no passion. I didn't empathize with these characters. I wanted to. I wanted to care about what was happening to them because any denial of human rights is atrocious.

But this film stirred no empathy in my heart. I felt no outrage for their plight. I think that the film did little to set the stage for their anger; I think the director assumed I would walk into the movie understanding the violations that the gay community has suffered. But I didn't--I grew up pretty well insulated during these times.

The movie didn't show their suffering; how much it hurt to not to be able to "be" even in their own homes. Milk talked about suicides, about being in the closet about young boys suffering, but the movie didn't really show that, they just talked about it. The film assumed that I would understand the plight of a gay man or woman in the 60s and 70s.

The little bit of discrimination that I have heard or known about was learned by talking to gay friends. I wanted the film to expose more of that. That explanation, through characterization, would have made this film an even more important film.

Instead, I think that the director would just assume we would understand that mistreatment.

SPOILER: Some may say that Milk's second lover's suicide showed this element. I would argue that it did not--it just further demonstrated how truly neurotic his second lover was.

Now the interplay between Sean Penn and James Franco was quite moving but, honestly, it was James Franco's performance that stirred me more. James' sad, troubled eyes, watching the love of his life giving himself away over and over again, was so touching. There, then, did I see and feel real emotions.

But the rest? It felt as the movie was just skimming the surface over some very real and raw incidents. Maybe these were left on the editing floor.

The movie just left me wanting.

This was a highly stylized film with an interesting cinematography that captured the look of the old, grainy and yellowish photos of the time.

One of the more beautifully filmed scenes was the last interaction between Harvey Milk and his lover, Scott, as they spoke on the phone and watched the sun rise together.

Along with Sean Penn, the film included Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna and James Franco.

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