The story of Harvey Milk is an inspiring one. The struggles for the civil rights of gays against the onslaught of bigotry led by Florida orange juice tout Anita Bryant, was an heroic and miraculous one. Harvey Milk accomplished what he set out to do: change the course of social history in America.
Sean Penn transforms himself into Harvey Milk, the San Francisco City and County Supervisor who was ultimately assassinated, along with the city Mayor. Much like DeNiro in Raging Bull, Sean Penn is Harvey Milk.
But Gus van Sant’s film is just not very good – or fell way short of the hype machins expectations. The film was mostly lifeless, until the last chilling sequences, when Josh Brolin’s Dan White stalks and kills both San Francisco’s Mayor and Harvey Milk. Talk about being in the minority, huh? I just don’t think people are separating the film from the story – and mostly that’s something I have trouble with in general myself. But here, the film fails the story. This is like a cardinal sin, right? Too reverential? I don’t think this it it. It just seems to lack the passion that drove Harvey Milk.
Better than many films, but no prize winner in my estimation.