Courtney Thomas Professor Richard Primuth MW 2:00-3:20 Movie Review Essay September 5, 2012 Milk’s Story Told Right The 2008 film Milk is based on a true story about a political leader who desired to see a change in America, specifically the freedom of choice and speech towards homosexuals. The motion picture takes place after Harvey Milk’s 40th birthday and captures the rest of his life as he strives to convince America to let the gay community out of the closet. The movie portrays the historical activist very well, including the surrounding characters as well as the actual events that took place during his time in office.
The film was very accurate in representing Harvey Milk correctly. In the movie, Milk was depicted as a very polite official who was determined to give hope to the gay community. While the film highlighted the last nine years of Milk’s life, it only focused on a few events that Milk participated in. There were a few minor details that were incorrectly represented such as the set of the film; however the historical events were embodied properly in the depictions of Harvey Milk and his assassinator, Dan White.
While the set of the film accurately takes place in San Francisco and Washington D. C. , the actual settings were slightly incorrect. According to a historical text, in San Francisco, the New Main Branch Library was built in 1995. However, this building is noticeable in some of the rally scenes when they actually took place during the mid-1970s. During the boycotting scene of Coors Beer, Budweiser and Bud Light dispensers were visible in the bar, yet Bud Light Beer was not introduced until 1982. Also, throughout the movie the characters reference The Advocate as a magazine.
Although The Advocate became a magazine in 1992, in Harvey Milk’s time during the 1970’s, it was a tabloid newspaper. Even though the film had setting and informational errors, the movie portrayed the characters stupendously. Dan White was the infamous San Francisco Supervisor who assassinated the first openly homosexual official Harvey Milk and the mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone. Josh Brolin, the actor who played White, embodied the character in a way that the audience could understand. During the film, the audience can see that Harvey Milk and George Moscone developed a political relationship.
Shortly after Dan White resigned his seat from the Board of Supervisors, Milk convinced Mayor Moscone that he would have a greater chance at being reelected mayor without White on the Board. Mayor George Moscone trusted Milk in this political judgment call. When the climactic scene of the two assassinations comes, the film depicts it accurately. After entering San Francisco’s City Hall from another entrance to elude the metal detectors, White went to Moscone’s office to plead for his reemployment. When Moscone denied him the occupation, White shot and killed him.
Later in the same hour, White went to Milk’s office and killed him as well. The film certainly displayed this scene accurately. Actor Sean Penn also delivered an outstanding performance playing the main character Harvey Milk. From the beginning to the end, Penn gave a believable presentation. In the film, Milk starts a camera business which then becomes a salon for homosexuals. While noticing that his surroundings are less than approving of the gay community, Milk decides to be a voice for those who are, metaphorically speaking, trapped behind closet doors.
In 1977, Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Being in a place of power, Milk used this opportunity to let it be known throughout America that there is hope for those who are homosexual. He began by supporting a civil rights bill that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bill passed with Dan White being the only one to oppose the bill; Mayer Moscone signed happily. Although there were many other events, campaigns, and trials that Harvey Milk had overcome, the film only highlighted a few of them.
Simply compressing Milk’s life and achievements into a two hour long film would only show a few accomplishments respectively. In doing so, the movie did a fantastic job in illustrating Harvey Milk’s last nine years, how he made history, and who he influenced. The film’s viewpoint was spot-on, respectful to history, and controversially honest. Showing true history at a stage of vulnerability helps the audience understand the reality of it. I believe Milk is an excellent film of how history should be taught.