Each new year we celebrate, with a ‘hope for a better tomorrow… because without hope, life is not worth living.’ It is this hope that exudes in each and every frame of Milk, and it is this hope that we should begin our year with.
A truly inspirational film, Milk is based on the life of Harvey Milk- the first openly gay politician of USA to be elected to public office. Directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black, the movie has some stirring performances by Sean Penn, James Franco and Emile Hirsch. Sean Penn plays the lead role of Harvey Milk, while James Franco plays his partner Scott Smith, whom he meets at a subway.
The film uses real- life footage from the 70s, beautifully woven along with the movie. The credit opens with black and white footage of visibly embarrassed men being rounded up by police and Milk recording his voice in a tape recorder, to be played in case he is assassinated. Next, the movie goes on to track his life from 1970 to 78. After meeting Scott in a subway, the two decide to move to Castro in San Francisco- already a favourite among gays- where they open a Camera Shop. With the shop becoming a hangout zone for gays, union leaders seek Milk’s help to ask gay people to boycott Coor’s Beer. The successful boycott raises his aspirations, and he runs for the City Supervisor’s post in 1973. After losing the elections for three times, he gets elected in 1977 as Castro’s Supervisor after a change in law. But this political activism takes a toll on his love- life, and Scott decides it time he leaves. As a Supervisor he tries to befriend Dan White, played by Josh Bolin, Supervisor of an Irish Catholic neighbourhood of Castro. However, political rivalry gets the best of them.
The movie then goes on to portray the fight for gay rights that Milk took, by challenging Anita Bryant and her supporters for a repeal of laws protecting LGBTs. He challenges Briggs, an ally of Bryant, for an open debate. Briggs was introducing Proposition 6 in California, which would lead to firing of all gay teachers or their supporters. What follows are a series of public debates, where Milk intelligently thwarts each of Briggs arguments. He urges each gay man to come out to their near and dear ones, so that people may know they exist and how their loved ones would be affected. Prop 6 is finally defeated. However, political rivalry comes to play its part, and Dan White murders both Harvey and Mayor Moscone.
The movie beautifully tracks down how Milk’s life changed the lives of many. The message of ‘hope for a better tomorrow’ is so ingrained in it and is also depicted in every frame; as in the scene where a physically challenged boy Paul calls Milk to thank him, for it was his victory in the elections to the post of Supervisor that gave him hope to live. The spirited portrayal of Harvey Milk got Sean Penn an Oscar for Best Actor, while Dustin Lance Black bagged one for Best Screenplay. If you still haven’t watched this masterpiece, go grab yourself a DVD, there can be no better way then to start the year with “hope”.