Review: Milk (3/5)

“Milk” has generated considerable awards season buzz even while it was still in production for several reasons: First, it is a biopic of a controversial 1970s public figure in San Francisco. Second, the critically acclaimed director of “My Private Idaho”, “Elephant”, “Finding Forrester”, and “Good Will Hunting”, Gus Van Sant, is behind it. And third, Sean Penn is starring in the lead role that may just land him an Oscar.

“Milk” tackles a defining moment in civil rights history in the eyes of Harvey Milk, an activist and the first openly gay man elected into public office in the US. I wouldn’t dwell on the socio-political aspect of the film, which involves Anita Bryant, John Briggs, and Proposition 6, since there’s always Google for that. But I will give due emphasis to Sean Penn’s stellar performance. He plays with natural consistency and breadth the charismatic and brave Harvey Milk. Given the wealth of possible Best Actor contenders in the Academy Awards, I could certainly say that Penn has the best chance of nabbing the Oscar. The rest of the ensemble also knocks out a punch in their portrayals. The powerhouse cast includes Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, and Diego Luna.

Despite its emphasis on politics, this film is most triumphant as a warm and intimate portrait of Harvey Milk, who is first and foremost a man before he is a politician. It exposes its subjects well of passion and emotions that will surprisingly touch everyone.


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