Monday, February 23, 2009
Cast: Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch
Director: Gus Van Sant
Runtime: 129 min.
Genre: Drama, Biopic
As a viewer it is tough to find a stake in Milk. Oh no, it doesn’t pertain to the question of orientation at all. I’m one of the great lovers of Brokeback Mountain, and part of that film’s appeal lay in the universality of its tale. Milk, on the other hand, is so particular about its world and issues that it gets locked within its little territory – the United States. I don’t cite that as a drawback but as an observation, and hopefully as a reason for my utter disinterest in the entire enterprise. I’m not sure the issue of gay rights is nearly a pressing matter in my life, and I believe my opinion of the film ought to be considered with some amount of circumspection as a result. I admit here, when I watched Milk I was still in the grasp of Rachel Getting Married. I still am. That sure does speak about me as a viewer, but I also believe that does speak a bit about the movie in question.
This feels like a personal project to many, and for reasons I now realize, to screenwriter Dustin Lance Black the most. I look at his filmography on IMDb and I see that one of his earlier films The Journey of Jared Price, which is about a young man’s sexual awakening. I learn it from the Plot Summary here. If it has autobiographical elements I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s Gus Van Sant, one of our best directors, and I believe the spirit and beliefs of Harvey Milk do resonate within him too. It shows in the film and its dedicated adherence to vociferously fight for these rights, and as a viewer sitting here in India I can only admire. You see Milk is a film that is so conventionally and predictably well-made that there’s nothing I can really insightful I can say. If I would claim that the film seamlessly moves from authentic footage to the movie stock, and that the cinematography employs a palette that reminds me of the 70s (shades of orange and brown to the frame and partially soft images, i.e. sharpness toned down), if I would claim that the movie employs a involving and clear narrative, if I would claim that the performances are all top class, and if I would claim that Mr. Elfman’s score is moving, I would be stating facts and rhetoric more than citing my opinion. And that kind of exercise doesn’t excite me much. Milk is the exact kind of good film that I don’t find anything worthy to discuss with you, and while I write the review it feels more like a chore than the enjoyable and learning exercise it usually is.
See, for what it strives, Milk hits all the right spots, and I understand that for those who are concerned about the political issue this film sure would mean a lot. It seeks change, and there’re a host of liberals stung by the bee that is the current U.S. President. Thus I seek other’s opinions and I see that even those who have loved the film do not have anything interesting to say other than to fall in paying homage to Mr. Milk. And some salute Mr. Penn, which again is a performance from the man. Every bit of skill that is implied by that word is to be found in his performance. It is his best work to date, no doubt, but ultimately it feels like work. I don’t know but Mr. Penn has always felt to me as an actor who makes me aware of his craft, and that basically boils down to difference in school of thought. But there’s no denying Mr. Penn disappears into Harvey Milk, and there’re moments where you wouldn’t be able to keep yourself from clapping at his immense talent. One of the most gifted actors of the generation. Unfortunately my definition of acting sounds a bit different. Never mind. I say again this is a super well made film. The performances, from Mr. Brolin, Mr. Franco are all superb. Only that I cannot make myself care enough. Milk is an American film.
Posted by Satish Naidu at 11:02 PM