Monday, May 11, 2009


Well now, the American Dairy Association is going to be unpleasantly surprised when they watch this tribute film.

Tee, hee. All jokes aside, it's no surprise that Milk is a good film. It was nominated for a slew of awards and Sean Penn is obviously terrific in it. I'm pretty sure Sean Penn is terrific when he trims his toenails or pays his utility bills, so it's hard to be bowled over by his performances any more, right? It's like putting A-Rod up to bat. You're pretty safe to go get a hot dog because you know the team's in good hands.

It's easy to admire Penn's charismatic portrayal of the first openly gay public office holder, Harvey Milk. But did I love the movie itself? Love might be a strong word. It's really good, but it doesn't evolve beyond the trappings of a biopic, trying to cram so much history into so little film and make us understand the person's soul at the same time. The latter is where the movie really failed for me.

Maybe that's because the tableau of characters surround Harvey Milk felt stereotyped and trite, as if director Gus Van Sant threw them in because he needed them to be there, not because he really wanted to pay them any attention. Look at me, I'm the hysterically unpredictable foreign boyfriend! Look at me, I'm the wisecracking lesbian campaign manager!

I never found myself engaging with any of the supporting cast, with the exception of Josh Brolin, who absolutely seethes in every scene (as one would expect the stepson of Barbra Streisand to do very well, zing!). He's like a pile of twitching electrical cables just inches from a pool of water. Watching his character slowly unwind iis the real pleasure of watching Milk.

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