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Milk [Blu-ray]
Actors: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco
Director: Gus Van Sant
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
R     2009     2hr 8min

His life changed history. His courage changed lives. Academy Award winner Sean Penn stars in this stirring celebration of Harvey Milk, a true man of the people. Based on the inspiring true story of the first openly gay m...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco
Director: Gus Van Sant
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Universal Studios
Format: Blu-ray - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/10/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 12/05/2008
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 2hr 8min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 4
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 4/26/2023...
High Amazon ratings and true story but movie will bore you. Sean Penn not at his finest hour!
Randal A. (Movieran) from SATELLITE BCH, FL
Reviewed on 11/14/2010...
Sean Penn is an incredible actor.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

The Gay Struggle Personified
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 02/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Gus Van Sant has always been an excellent if somewhat eclectic director. Although I have enjoyed his previous efforts, I was somewhat apprehensive when I heard he was undertaking a film biography of Harvey Milk. A gay figure of this importance, I thought, should be handled by someone a little more mainstream. Like many gay people, I am weary of gay-themed films that reach no one beyond a gay audience, and the message I would want to emerge from a film about Harvey Milk should be heard by everyone.

As if reading my mind, Mr. Van Sant has fashioned a film that is accessible to all, while approaching his subject with sharp focus and a singleness of purpose that is at once definitive and topical. A stunning achievement, MILK manages to make its point without ever being preachy or trite, while remaining as true to the facts as any film bio could ever hope to be.

The film opens with snippets of gay history that many young gay people, let alone a straight audience, may be shocked to discover. During the opening credits, a barrage of vintage film clips remind us that a scant 50 years ago, gay men, lesbians and transsexuals were subjected to violence, harassment, physical abuse, arrest and humiliation by the very people that most citizens look to for protection; i.e. the police and judicial authorities. The newsreel images of gay bar raids that open MILK project a surreal yet somehow eerily familiar atmosphere that seems to alternate between the bizarre and the barbaric. Many people today are not aware that, in the 1940's and 1950's, right here in the USA, gay people were arrested for simply patronizing a gay bar (newspaper headline: "Den of Perverts Busted"). Many of those arrested had their names and employers published in the morning paper (!), and often found themselves unemployed and unemployable, branded with the label of "deviate". It is this chilling fact of social injustice that clears the way for the film's swing into a very important piece of gay history.

Skillfully telling us the story of Milk's rise as a leader in the Castro Gay Community of San Francisco, Harvey Milk is seen throughout the film as a living, breathing flesh and blood person. Van Sant adroitly propels Sean Penn through a warts-and-all portrayal of a frail human being with an idealistic bent and a politician's savvy. As with any good film, it is difficult, if not impossible, to discern which is more impressive - the balance of a perfect cast and lovingly detailed direction weave their way through a seamless portrait of an important historical figure, yet we are somberly reminded that many people remember Harvey Milk solely for the "Twinkie" defense of his star-crossed killer. The end result is that gay audiences emerge from seeing this film with a sense of pride and purpose, while straight audiences leave with a better knowledge of who we (gay people) are, what we want, and what we are struggling for. By word of mouth I expected a thrilling cinematic experience; what I got was a surprisingly near-perfect motion picture and some of the best acting I've ever seen. I heartily recommend MILK to any straight person who wants to get a grasp on what the last 30 years of gay history were really all about, and any gay person who wants to feel good about themselves. MILK is a triumph. See it."
Timothy P. Scanlon | Hyattsville, MDUSA | 11/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Allow me to agree with at least one other reviewer that everyone should see this, especially those who think being gay is so far out of the mainstream that, as my father in law once said, "The Lord allowed AIDS to happen."

Harvey Milk. A man of whom I know little. I lived on the other side of the world when he died, in a city in which it was not unusual to run into eunuchs. I'd heard of him since, in reference to gayness, but never associated any importance to him. Then I saw that Sean Penn was playing Milk, so I told my spouse that we need to see it.

Milk, it seemed, lived a pretty conventional lifestyle, working for an insurance company in New York. According to the script, anyway, in 1970 he met a flame and they headed to the west coast. Despite local resistance, they set up shop in the Castro district of San Francisco (after "The Haight" had become riddled with crime, homelessness and the like). Milk then decided it was time to get politically active.

In this portion of the film, I thought for a while that I was going to suffer from motion sickness. The camera seemed to move quite rapidly, and cut from the scene they were shooting to a historical scene, and back. But I adjusted. And Milk lost the first election, then the second, then the third. That, believe it or not, didn't take too much time for the film to get across, except that Milk's lover, Scott (played by James Franco) left after he said he couldn't take another one. That's when the action started (!)

I'm not gay, and have never been terribly sympathetic to many of the gay causes. At least I never payed much attention to 'em. Yeah, I heard outrageous statements like I quoted above, but I just disregarded them. After this film, my spouse felt guilty that she didn't know much about the Milk case. I pointed out that she wasn't exposed to it much. Even to this day many of the gay "causes" aren't seen as so mainstream. They're seen as somewhat fringe. Some alleged "gay eccentricities" may have added to that exclusion, and I believe the film included that element. Indeed, that's why Harvey Milk decided to go to Orange County, CA, without his gay supporters, and debate State Senator Briggs, played by Dennis O'Hare, the proponent of Proposition 6, a gay rights provision to which gays were opposed, on his own terms. And it paid off! The proposition was defeated!

Throughout the film, Milk was reciting a testament into his tape recorder, to be played only if he were assasinated. I wish I knew whether Milk really did that or whether it was added to the film for "effect." Either way, it was the adhesive that kept the film together.

The historical clips also added to the film's credibility, especially those of Anita Bryant. After Bryant's success in some anti-gay initiatives around the country, Milk decided to bring her causes to the attention of the people of California, and that's where the Proposition 6 movement began.

There's so much I could say about the film. I don't want to cover anything of the murder case, as I'll give too much away. The acting was definitely Oscar material, especially for Sean Penn. The script and music were award-winning. But the reason I endorse it--especially for those most opposed to gay rights--is that it shows that those rights are no less constitutional or mainstream than the rights of blacks, women, or any other groups which have had to labor hard for the last 230 years!

Whether the film was timed to come out--no pun intended--after California's Proposition 8, I don't know. But it's well timed in terms of trying to educate people as to why those right should be guaranteed.

Today we have people like Keith Olbermann to editorialize on those who opposed Proposition 8. We can thank God for Harvey Milk, the "first openly gay" person in politics in the US, for having opened to doors for those contemporay editorials.

It's also, by the way, a testament to the cause of political activism in general; most activists find themselves in a rut deeper than that of Milk and his associates. This film may remind them to persist!

See this gem, and make sure those challenged by gay rights see it. Discuss it with them. Someday then we will be able to proclaim that "all men are created equal."
A story that will teach tolerance
Brian Danker | San Francisco | 12/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The movie portrays a brave man.The movie "Milk" showed that any man who stands by his principles, will always leave a lesson to be learned.

The advances that the Gay communities of California have made in the past 30 years started with the Harvey Milk story.I have been a San Francisco Police officer for 24 years.I am proud to have known a few very brave S.F.P.D. officers who happen to have been gay.

In this state,the advances made for gay people for their civil rights and equal rights,begin with the Milk story.

I was in the movie and I played a real police officer at a homicide scene.The murder of Robert Hillsbough. The hates crimes committed against gays in this city back in the 1970's were over the top.
I was honored to have, done my simple scene with Sean Penn.

I was honored to have been a member of that cast.Check out the cast on the web

I know the damages that Dan White caused our city,and my Department.
It was a very sad day.

I can say this much about that tragic man.Besides being a former cop, and fireman a little talked about fact about Dan White. He was also a Viet Nam veteran.He served in the same unit that I was in in Viet Nam, the 173rd airborne. He served one year in the central highlands. We came home suffering along with 1000'S of other combat vets, suffering from P.T.S.D. He committed suicide after his release from prison. He was buried with full honors in the Veteran cemetery in San Bruno Calif.

It was not called that at the time of his trail. The fact that a man who was an Irish Catholic, a former Police officer, and a Viet Nam vet who could not, and did not seek help.The movie kind of showed that Milk made every effort to befriend Dan White.How Dan White did not understand that he was responsible to do the right thing. The murder of those two innocent men makes me sad, to know that In my life I walked the same paths.

I think a lot of school teacher's will be able to add this movie to list of movies that teach tolerance.As a straight guy, I was honored to be in the movie.I wanted people to understand tolerance."