As Milk got going I thought it was moving a bit too fast. The whole of Harvey’s pre-activist life was condensed into about 30 minutes which I felt didn’t give enough context to his transition into such an all-consuming political career. His motives were explained pretty briefly in an unbelievable first encounter with Scott in a train station. The only reason we’re given for his dramatic life-turn is “I need a change”. I was also pretty pissed off that gay women received little, if any, attention and the only lesbian character is largely derided by her male counterparts. These however are pretty much the only gripes I have with the film.
Sean Penn was incredible as Harvey Milk, playing the role with just the right amount of intensity and conviction, never verging on being overblown or grandiose. The supporting cast too were spot on and almost stole the show – Emile Hirsch was great as the disaffected spoilt brat turned master campaigner Cleve and James Franco gave a wonderful performance as Scott, Harvey’s soulmate who, although supportive, ultimately couldn’t handle the strain his new-found career was putting on their relationship. Kudos also to Diego Luna who played the vulnerable and tragic Jack Lira.
Despite initial reservations, Milk has turned out to be literally one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Stellar performances and overall great direction from Gus Van Sant make this a moving homage to an activist who gave thousands of gay Americans hope and opportunity.