Milk just didn’t do it for me. Don’t get me wrong; it is a very skillfully-executed, well-written recapitulation of the political career of Harvey Milk, America’s first openly-gay elected official. Milk’s message of hope, and his fight against a prejudiced ballot proposition, puts the movie squarely in today’s zeitgeist.
Sean Penn disappears into the man and the times, as does the whole cast, including Josh Brolin as Milk’s assassin, Dan White. This is not a spoiler. The movie expects you to know the history already. Every time White is on screen it is an ominous moment.
I think perhaps the movie lost me when Diego Luna’s character sends his final message to Milk and the movie doesn’t really give such a heavy moment its full weight. Or maybe it’s just the curse of all biopics, that true history is never as well-organized and dramatically potent as fiction.
I expect Milk to win some awards, but I don’t think it will be a payback-for-Brokeback Best Picture. If it had lived up to the stylish and emotionally-powerful trailer, perhaps. Or maybe it was just preaching to the choir. I guess the true test of Milk will be whether it can give ‘road-to-Damascus’ moments to those who retain their stubborn prejudices into this new century.