The first time I saw the Milk, I was blown away. Biopics are a tricky business—and if executed correctly—an art. One successful feat is that Gus Van Sant never for a moment tried to pretend that we didn’t know the ending. There was no convenient suspense to act as a crutch to make the film more structured. Right from the get-go, the facts about Milk are divulged enough for the uninformed without boring those up to date with their activism history. In what I would dub the most epic line in any recent movie, Penn as Harvey Milk (San Fran City Supervisor and first openly gay man elected to American office) bravely records onto his taped will, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” The underlying message of the film is that we need to have complete confidence and perseverance in our convictions if we want to change the world. Barriers need to be pushed, not met. It is sad that the core issues of this political movie are completely applicable to the Prop 8 world we live in today. Harvey Milk stirred the pot. Let’s keep the ball rolling, America.
Let’s be real: Van Sant is a film and casting god. Good Will Hunting shot Matty Damon to epic stardom and Eric Deulen for Elephant was an oddly good pick. (Actually until I just wiki-prused Eric Deulen’s name, I though he was the same kid who plays Stacy Alva in Lords of Dogtown, but that is in fact John Robinson.) And with Milk, Gus did it again. Sean Penn does not act in this movie. He embodies. I have a huge talent crush on Sean. And maybe/definitely even a real crush. Spicoli will always have a place in my heart and let’s not forget that he wrote and directed Into the Wild. Sean can do no wrong.
Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, and James Franco are three more reasons to be enthralled by this film. Thank you, Van Sant, for gathering up four of my all-time favorite actors onto a set and filming them at their absolute best. And on that note, I have to shift the focus for a second from this to Franco due to the fact that James’ squinty-eyed smile is stuck in my head. What can I say? He had me at Tristan and Isolde. In my opinion, James Franco is running an extremely Depp-like career. The show-stopping looks are there, the attitude and mysteriousness are there, and the role choices are becoming ever more similar. Yes, Johnny is known for his off-beat roles and whatnot, but at the same time he leads the cast of the blockbusting Pirates series. Quite similarly, James chooses scripts like Milk and the upcoming Howl (another Van Sant piece that I am looking forward to), but he obviously also starred in the money-making Spiderman trilogy. Regardless, James Franco is underrated and everyone needs to jump on the bandwagon. Actually, stay on your wagons, because James and I are quite comfortable in ours, thank you.