Tuesday, December 16, 2008

REVIEW: Milk


Milk

Year: 2008
Director: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna
Distributor: Focus Features
MPAA: Rated R

Milk was easily one of my most anticipated films this Winter season. The films trailer looked really interesting and the reviews were also really amazing. Milk also couldn't have come at the right time of the year. I mean the US presidential election is over and all this talk about Prop 8 was looming around peoples heads, it just couldn't have come at a perfect time than it has. The only problem that kind of got in the way of my viewing was the films limited release. It was released in very few theaters like 36 when it first came out with other theaters having it alittle later. I had to go to a theater that's about 30min's away from my house, but it was so worth it.

Plot Outline:
Based on the true story of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) and how he was elected as the first openly gay city councilor in San Francisco in 1978. It follows how he got there, how he got people to help him, his various campaigns before, his lovers Scott Smith (James Franco) and Jack Lara (Diego Luna) and to his tragic murder.

Plot:
The film is based on the real life events of Harvey Milk and how he was the first gay person elected city councilor in San Francisco in 1978. Having not read anything about the real Harvey Milk or on what he did, my knowledge on the film was very vague. That still doesn't change the fact that Milk is easily one of the years best films. The story is fantastic and gives you a good amount of detail on Harvey Milk and what he did for what he believed in. Sure the film is predictable considering its based on someones life and anyone who reads about this film on wikipedia will easily know how it ends, but they will also be missing an experience that is every bit worth watching. The film also has many messages that get across nicely and ones that are really well made. Director Gus Van Sant who is a homosexual in real life, takes this film to new heights. Not because hes gay in real life, but because he knows what film he wants to paint on the big screen. He knows exactly what hes doing and treats this film with great care. I cant possibly imagine anyone else directing this film. Sure the film tends to drag alittle in the beginning, but few biopics are as fulfilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking as this film and it could not have come at a better time than now.

Cast:
Sean Penn plays as Harvey Milk and he gives an extraordinary performance as Milk, and one that's probably the best in his career. He melts into his character and you can really tell he was giving his best. Penn lives and breaths as Milk and their is simply no one else in my opinion that could have pulled this off. That Oscar is more than likely headed his way and he more than deserves it for his work in this film. Josh Brolin plays as Dan White and he too is simply great in this film. I'm not sure its the best performance he has ever given, but its sure one of his finest. He plays his part really smooth and is easily the right person to play it opposite Penn. James Franco plays as Scott Smith and hes a nice addition to the cast. He kind of of looks alittle uncomfortable in his naked scenes with Penn, but I think this is a big step up for him compared to his Spider-Man films. Emile Hirsch plays as Cleve Jones and he also gives a great performance. He plays the character Cleve Jones nicely and has a good amount of screen time to show it. I think its probably his finest performance yet. We also have Diego Luna playing as Jack Lira. Here is another fine performance in this already impressive cast. Luna easily adapts to his character and doesn't seem troubled to be playing this part. Probably the best work he has done yet.

Picture:
The visual look of Milk isn't something to brag about. The film although is a new release, has plenty of film grain through out its 2 hour run time. I'm pretty sure it was the filmmakers choice to make this film seem old kind of like how it would appear in the 70's. Theirs also alot of old footage used in the film to give the audience a glimpse of whats going on in that time period. These all look pretty bad, but I guess that was expected considering its old footage. The film's color levels aren't that great and seem to appear alittle muted in some scenes. Black levels are somewhat strong, but still don't hold a candle to some of the best I have seen for films. Some of the darker scenes look alright, but the black levels don't hold up much. Flesh tones seem perfectly fine and you can clearly see the characters faces. Detail is generally good, but aren't the best I have seen for a biopic. Close up shots show a good amount of detail, but it tends to get alittle soft in some of the far away shots.

Sound:
The soundtrack for Milk is pretty good. The film's music is composed by mastermind Danny Elfman. He does another good job here, but his music isn't used much. Their isn't that much music in Milk anyways. The films more dialogue rather than music which isn't a bad thing, but I would have preferred both. Still, Elfman's work here is another winner and it really helps move the film in a way. Milk isn't going to move anyone in terms of its bass. Like I said, this is very much a dialogue driven film so any bass we get is perfectly fine considering the film is a biopic. Dynamics are hardly used and it seems more front heavy in my opinion. The bass that we do get is hardly reference material, but honestly, its perfectly fine for this film. Its not like anyone was expecting it to blow our minds anyway.

Conclusion:
Milk is a fulfilling, entertaining, and a thought-provoking film that many biopics these day simply aren't. Its wonderfully told and nicely directed by Gus Van Sant. The films story is simply great and really engaging. Sure its pacing seems alittle off at times, but its little to fault with. The cast is equally impressive and has many strong performances. I'll be damn amazed if Sean Penn doesn't win Best Actor because he truly deserves it for his work in this film. The visual look of the film is very difficult to judge. The film doesn't look very impressive because I think it was the filmmakers decision to make the film seem old and grainy, but it also has a pretty good amount of detail. The soundtrack is pretty good with Elfman's score delivering the job, but only when its their. Milk is truly the movie to see in a time like this. Its riveting and really interesting. Its easily one of the years best film.

Grade: A-

4 comments:

Mitch Harper said...

Last Summer, I was intrigued by this movie because of James Franco. What's his role like anyway?

Then into Fall, the trailers started coming out and it looked really good. I didn't know until some research that it was based on true events which made me want to see it even more.

There is only one theater in Salt Lake that is showing it. Like you, its a bit of a distance to go see it. I might have to make a trip now.

It looks really good.

Farzan said...

Franco plays as Scott Smith. He falls in love with Penn's character when they meet in some type of subway station. Their is alot of sexual scenes in which Penn and Franco are naked. Franco is really good in this film. Its a big step from his last few films such as Pineapple Express and Spider-Man 3.

Yeah, if your willing to go to Salt Lake to see the film than go for it, but wait a week. I think this weekend, the film should open in more theaters and maybe it will open in a theater near you.

micky said...

my folks saw this the other day and said it was a great movie.

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