A film such as this, about a little-known (on a wide scale) gay activist who truly helped change the world for the better, upsets me as much as I enjoy watching and learning about such inspirational people.
It embarrasses me as a member of the human race to think that so many members of my species were filled with such hate and fear that they would oppress people for their sexuality and use a presumed insight into God as their justification. Harvey Milk was a rare being for his time: an openly gay man who wanted only to gain human rights for himself and his gay brothers and sisters. He worked to eradicate things like being fired simply for being gay. He was an articulate and intelligent advocate for the cause and had the ability to rally people to show their strength in numbers. Instead of just accepting their lot in life Harvey showed them they could do something about it. And he led them to a remarkable shift in public policy in a relatively short period of time.
I remember orange juice pitchwoman Anita Bryant’s explosive comments back in the mid-70’s when she claimed, among other things, to know what God was thinking about gay people. She actually said, “I love homosexuals but God hates them”. She came to prominence as a beauty queen but her views were incredibly ugly. Her bigotry was the spark that lit the gay movement on fire so she did some good after all. Harvey Milk craftily manipulated the situation to the advantage of his cause.
Sean Penn won an Oscar for his portrayal of the title character and rightly so. Despite his well-earned real-life persona as a bitchy guy who behaves badly (which he acknowledged in his acceptance speech, to a roar of laughter!) he has the uncanny ability to melt into a character and make you forget he’s Sean Penn. What an amazing quality! He was stellar in the film. So was James Franco as Milk’s longtime lover, shaking off his “hunk” image and morphing fully into his role.
Milk is an essential human history lesson disguised in a compelling film. I highly recommend it.