Milk is a biopic about Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), the first openly gay politician in the United States, who served office in San Francisco for a short time before being assassinated. The plot of the movie begins when Milk and his much younger lover, Scott Smith (James Franco), decide to move to San Francisco together from NYC. The two open a camera shop in the Castro district, the famous gay mecca of the city.
Milk begins to develop as a gay activist in the area, which causes a rift in his relationship as Smith becomes frustrated with his partner’s devotion to politics. Milk attempts to run for office twice, in 1973 and 1975, and is finally elected to office in 1977 with a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
During his tenure on the board, Milk develops a complex working relationship with Dan White (Josh Brolin), whose politics are essentially completely opposite of Milk. Milk often shoots down White’s assorted propositions, and after feeling betrayed by Milk on a tentative exchange of support for each other’s propositions, as well as concerted effort lead by Milk to defeat one his most beloved policies, White resigns. Later, he changes his mind, but his request to be re-instated is turned down by the mayor, and sets him down a dark path that culminates in his assassination of both the mayor and Milk.
“Sean Penn amazes me. Not long before seeing “Milk,” I viewed his work in “Dead Man Walking” again. Few characters could be more different, few characters could seem more real. He creates a character with infinite attention to detail, and from the heart out. Here he creates a character who may seem like an odd bird to mainstream America and makes him completely identifiable. Other than the occasional employment of Harvey Milk’s genitals, what makes this character different? Some people may argue there is a gay soul but I believe we all share the same souls.”
— Roger Ebert
“Harvey Milk embodied the concept that “all politics is personal,” and by presenting the famed Mayor of Castro Street’s personal and public lives with such clarity and empathy, Gus Van Sant has made something very rare in Hollywood — a genuinely powerful political film that works equally well as a story of personal triumph.”
— Perry Seibert, TV Guide
“It’s a total triumph, brimming with humour, heart, sexual heat, political provocation and a crying need to stir things up, just like Harvey did. If there’s a better movie around this year, with more bristling purpose, I sure as hell haven’t seen it.”
— Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Did You Know?
After over 15 years of attempting to create a film about Milk, Gus Van Sant finally succeeded with this film, which opened to universal acclaim and a huge number of award nominations and victories, and it was included on best film of the year lists all throughout the media. Many scenes are shot in real life locations true to the events of Harvey Milk’s life, including the actual store where he opened his camera shop, as well as his actual former apartment. Review our Gay Themed Films here
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Focus Features