Milk (Gus Van Sant, 2008): USA

Reviewed by Keith Chancey. Viewed at the Riviera Theatre, Santa Barabra, CA.

Hope. Change. The opposition of an important California proposition. It’s a shame that Milk had not been released into theatres nation wide two months ago, maybe then Pro. 8 wouldn’t have been able to pass. Then again, Harvey Milk wasn’t successful in his first attempt at office either. Gus Van Sant has given those whom oppose 8 proper fuel for a rebuttal, and he’s given everyone else a great movie to enjoy and possibly swayed a few opinions in the process.

Gus Van Sant’s Milk is the telling of 1970’s San Francisco and it’s first major gay movement: Harvey Milk. Beginning with Milk’s escape from a closet life and trailing all through the protests and elections to come and finally concluding with a 30,000-person candle-lit memorial march, Milk is not a film to overlook.

Aside from a few little things, there is only one part of the movie that I had problems with, and that is the performance that Josh Brolin gives. Brolin is playing Dan White, an opponent to Harvey Milk in the race for supervisor; he is also the man with a gun towards the end. Perhaps his performance feels off because he is the only major supporting actor portraying a straight man, but that shouldn’t be the case at all. The film spends a lot of time with White, but no real character is developed. We are told his position over and over, but are never given a definitive why to justify his actions or involvement. And this is certainly not the type of story where it’s suppose to be a mystery, Brolin as White just doesn’t work as good as it could have. Though he does have some humorous lines. Other than that one performance, Milk is a good film. It fits in properly with the rest of the Gus Van Sant films and I’m sure that most people will walk away liking it, but not necessarily loving it. Don’t get me wrong, that’s no bad thing. The film just could have been so much more. So much is left unsaid when there is so much to say. But, too much said would have led this two hour film into a dangerously long run time. So for as far as that goes, it’s understandable that characters like Brolin’s were left unexplored.

The archival blend of Hollywood 1970’s and the actual thing does happen, and nearly seamlessly at times. Most of Milk is played with a strong film grain, so when we are given the real thing it goes by rather smoothly, with just enough of a difference to let us know that there was a change and that there is that much more in the details. The whole thing is very Gus Van Sant in an artistic sort of way.

The best part about Milk is the timeless feeling it has. As it goes, somebody is always discriminating against somebody. There is always an outcast to society that is bashed on for no other reason than a slight difference. Milk goes right ahead and stands up for everyone, not just the homosexual, but everyone. The film doesn’t preach, it doesn’t force any opinions, it just states facts and shines lights on situations while giving hope to those who need it most. Don’t miss Milk in theatres. It looks good, plays smoothly and tells a well-put story that clashes nicely with what we have today and to come.

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