I found out about the movie "Milk" from seeing a one-sheet when I was in a theatre for something. And then I saw the trailer. I have vague memories of hearing about this story when I was a kid, though I didn't remember that this was the case where the "Twinkie defense" originated from.
I didn't cry as much during this film as I thought I might, knowing the basics of the outcome of the story, which I guess is a tribute to the film focussing on the positive. I had known that Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were both shot and killed, and the name Dan White sounded familiar to me, but I hadn't remembered that it was Dan White who had actually killed the two of them.
Since the movie is dramatized, I'm not sure what aspects were true and what aspects were manufactured. The first meeting between Harvey and Scott is a bit jarring, but it was interesting that something so casual turned out to be the most important relationship in Harvey's life.
The timing of the release of this movie was interesting. The film was released shortly after the passing of Proposition 8 in California, which made marriages between people of the same sex to be declared invalid. The passing of that bill disturbed me greatly as I really thought that at least in California, people were more open-minded than that, and it was really surprising to find out that even in this state, so many people still have such biases about who can be in love and count as a couple. But seeing the struggle that Harvey Milk went through in trying to get himself elected to office as an openly gay candidate was very interesting. It took him multiple attempts to finally get elected, and with each election, he got more and more votes. He tried to focus on the commonalities that he had with straight people without ever hiding the fact that he was gay. I see that the fight for equal rights when it comes to marriage is just the latest in a line of things that gay people have to fight for. And I think that numbers indicate gay marriage will eventually be legalized in California, and the best way to do that is to use the same strategy Harvey Milk used - to focus on the sameness between straight people and gay people, especially in terms of marrying the person you love.
When I first saw that Sean Penn was going to be playing Harvey Milk, I was surprised to say the least. It's not the kind of role I would have expected from him, and he also changed his physical appearance quite a bit to play this role. He was absolutely phenomenal, and while there isn't any explicit sex in the film, there are quite a number of intimate scenes between Harvey and other men, and Sean Penn doesn't seem to have shied away from that at all.
It's a bit difficult to really single out any performances, because pretty much everyone was good in this film. You see the development of how each person became associated with Harvey, and how they went from being just a bunch of guys to being a part of a movement that grew and grew. The last shot of the miles of people holding candles in silence in tribute to Harvey Milk was incredibly moving.
I know there are a lot of people who will refuse to see this film simply because of the subject matter. They're missing out.