The China Syndrome, Wall Street and even Casablanca are examples of movies that happened to be in the right place at the right time, dovetailing with real-life incidents that mirrored what was happening on-screen. Milk follows suit: Though set in the 1970s, it couldn’t possibly be more relevant. For that, we have to blame those hideous anti-gay measures that recently passed in California, Florida, Arkansas and Arizona.
In the ’70s, Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn) fought against similar hysteria. Milk was tired of homosexuals such as himself being treated as second-class citizens -- even in the supposedly liberal city of San Francisco, where he settled -- and he found himself drawn to political office as a way in which to fight for equality.
It took several attempts, but he finally became the first openly gay person elected to public office in the U.S. On the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he continued to grow in influence, which did not sit well with Dan White (Josh Brolin), the board’s most conservative member -- and, as it turned out, its most trigger-happy.
The Oscar-winning 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk offered a flawless look at the career of this passionate progressive, so it’s a testament to the richness of Gus Van Sant’s direction and Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay that this fictionalized version feels authentic in every movement.
Like Good Night, and Good Luck (another movie exploring right-wing zealots and their convenient scapegoats), Milk expertly mixes archival footage with the dramatic recreations, and the climactic candlelight vigil is so expertly handled that it’s inspiring in both its artistic expression and emotional impact.
As Milk, Penn delivers the performance of his career, and he’s backed by a superlative cast containing only one weak link: Diego Luna as Milk’s insecure lover, Jack Lira (James Franco fares much better as Harvey’s previous lover, Scott Smith). But this is a small misstep in an otherwise excellent production.
Tix to benefit go fast
Hoping to score a ticket to Thursday night’s Carmike 10 sneak preview of the new biopic Milk? Well, you’re probably out of luck. I say “probably” because the one-show-only fund-raiser by the newly formed Savannah Gay & Lesbian Film Society is already sold out.
“I’m thrilled to say I just sold the very last ticket a few minutes ago,” said organization director Deb Riney when contacted by phone. “We had right at 100 seats available, and the response to the event was tremendous. They’re all taken.”
However, Riney notes there’s no guarantee everyone who purchased one of the special $20 tickets from her non-profit organization will actually show. “Sometimes things come up and people simply can’t make it,” she explains. Which is why any unclaimed seats will be made available to those waiting in line just as the film’s previews start. “We want as many people to attend as possible,” she says.
Proceeds go towards cost of the 2009 Savannah Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Anyone who wasn’t able to nab a ticket for this showing will be pleased to know the film opens the following day at the Carmike 10. Find info on upcoming screenings at savannahgaylesbianfilmsociety.com. — Jim Reed