It is difficult for Milk to go wrong. The subject content, gay rights, lends itself easily to controversy, sympathy and outrage. It is a biopic dedicated to a strong and interesting character, and such films (think Howard Hughes in The Aviator, Johnny Cash in Walk The Line) are typically intriguing. Add Sean Penn, and Milk is almost a sure-fire hit.
And indeed Senn Penn was magnificent as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. He was really, for lack of better words, darn darn good in a no-holds barred performance. His Milk was passionate, energetic, flamboyant, sad and above all, inspiring for his relentless sprit in pursuing what he felt was right. The rest of the cast impressed as well and this became immediately apparent at the end of the film. The ending credits featured real pictures of the people portrayed in the film, and as proof of the cast’s success, the uncanny similarity between the actors and the respective characters played was palpable, even through a mere still picture.
Milk is told rather linearly – factual, non-judgemental and not overtly emotional. The film doesn’t lay out what is right or wrong, but simply celebrates the human will to make dreams reality. Real and reel were nicely mixed with actual news coverage from the 1970s weaved seamlessly into the narrative. Despite the fact that some parts were draggy, and that Harvey Milk sometimes came across as being too nice and friendly, Milk was a fuss-free, surprisingly effective and moving educational-historical film.
On a totally different note, Ponyo On the Cliff By the Sea was so cute! 🙂 Miyazaki has this gift of creating a fantasy anime world filled with rapture, unexpected joys and boundless imagination. That said, I much preferred Spirited Away, which was more complex, had more interesting characters and was somewhat darker. Ponyo On The Cliff By the Sea is for the kids- still delightful, but not so much impactful.