Sean Penn deserved the Oscar he won. He is straight, right?! I like the background story of how and when San Francisco became the San Francisco. Obviously, I had no idea who Harvey Milk was, being apolitical and a teenager. This film, although not an official documentary, gave me enough to understand an important episode of human rights history. Look. How long it took that the issue now is about legalised same-sex marriage: 30 years! Nonetheless, it was progress.
An insurance sales agent in New York, Harvey Milk(Sean Penn), picks up Scott Smith(James Franco) on his way into the subway; Scott is getting out, but eyes cross (gaydar was very relevant back then). After some interesting flirtation, Scott ends up at Harvey’s apartment, where they spend Harvey’s 40th birthday. They become lovers, friends, and move out to the West coast to enjoy their freedom on Castro Street, San Francisco. Harvey’s camera shop becomes the depot for gays in exile, and where it starts his political agenda.
I like that this film focused more on the political side of Milk’s life; otherwise, it could have been easily scripted as a melodrama. In other words, the film is strictly about Milk’s relentless efforts to fight for gays equal rights. Unfortunately, it also means the film didn’t offer another perspective of Milk’s personal life, but only given was the surface stuff: co-dependent lover, etc. Nonetheless, I believe the focus made Sean Penn the Oscar winner. I could see that political determinism in his speeches: he became Harvey Milk.
Franco offered a no-boundary performance, and so did Penn, and I was surprised at how natural they looked. I wondered how many times they rehearsed those intimate scenes?!
The only thing I wish was to have a bit more of Dan White’s(Josh Brolin) internal turmoil. I understand Irish Catholic, but why he did it?! Out of what anger? Was it internalized homophobic as Milk suggested?
I wasn’t warm to watching it, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how great Sean Penn was.