I saw Milk last night.
I am so glad it's happening now. I imagine I'd have issues with it as a movie if I were to think too long about it--pacing maybe, standard bio pic, etc--all things I've heard.
But I don't really care. Penn is amazing, amazing, and the story is the story that needs to be told right now. The screenwriter said he focussed on the politics, since there were so many stories about his life and relationships he could have focussed on, and that's 100% correct.
Milk is not perfect, as the man wasn't--he comes across as over-zealous, political, selfish at times, but funny, sweet, caring, and naive as well. But I can think of no film I have ever seen being released at exactly the right moment. Someone suggested in the audience that perhaps the film would've made a difference before the Prop 8 vote, but I think the opposite. I think the people who would have seen it then would've been a much smaller audience who would have left thinking the same as they came in. I think people in the streets and the fury directed at the vote will help more people to see it, and more people will be affected by this story of an ordinary man working in his community to make a difference--perhaps even change some minds (yes--I'm optomistic enough to believe people can change their minds). And that one voice, asking everyone to come out, is still resonating today. And 30 years later the entire landscape has changed.
I was thrilled sitting in the audience. Thrilled, and energized. I don't know what I thought of it as a film, per se, but it struck a deep chord. To me, seeing an oscar winning actor playing a real gay man, a gay man who has ideas, opinions, flaws, and complicated, nuanced relationships with other men with no apology is thrilling. As are Diego Luna, Emile Hirsch (who I couldn't place throughout the entire film he disappeared so much for me), James Franco, Denis O'Hare, Josh Brolin so many of the actors. I wouldn't be surprised if Penn, Brolin, and even possibly Luna (but that's a long shot) get noms. The design perfectly captures SF at the time--they actually filmed in the storefront that was Milk's camera store. And the inclusion of historical footage works perfectly.
I have heard some criticism from gay men that they felt the movie is made for straight people, like Philadelphia was. I can't disagree more. I didn't feel pandered to, instructed, or bored. I felt excited, emotional, and amazed. This man was all about equality. I feel like this film, for the first time in a mainstream HOllywood film, put gays on equal footing. Being gay isn't the issue in this film (see Brokeback Mountain, which is a great film), but rather what it takes to be yourself, and demand equality, the risks and the rewards.
So you'll excuse me if I don't write about it as a film as much as about it as a moment. That I could sit in a room full of all kinds of people, holding another man's hand, and see how far we've come--that's beautiful. That there were at least three out gay actors in it, a gay director, gay screenwriter, and producers--brilliant. I can't see it any other way.