Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MILK, The Real Thing

You Gotta Give 'em Hope, Pt. 2

I finally got to see it. Thanks to Hulu (one of the greatest inventions of the Internet). I had heard this documentary was out there, floating somewhere in the media universe. This documentary won an Oscar and brought the Milk story into public awareness unfiltered by sensationalist news media. This film features interviews with people who knew and worked with Harvey. It’s a realistic portrayal of the man that far exceeds the new Sean Penn film.

You may have previously read how much I liked the MILK movie. I like this documentary as much or more than the new film. If you have seen the movie, I recommend you now watch the documentary to help put into perspective what you have seen. This does a much better job of showing the political and historical importance of what Harvey did.

After watching the documentary I have become a little less impressed with Sean Penn’s work. Please don’t misunderstand me. I respect his courage for taking on a role that many A-list actors would have run away from with the cowardice that only popularity crazed celebrities can muster. Penn’s Milk was an endearing portrayal. However, his interpretation was more a caricature than a character. While watching the documentary it becomes obvious that Milk was an intense, assertive and aggressive man. Penn’s character was an effeminate, flailing, capricious pixie compared to what the real man must have been like. Watching the footage of the real Harvey Milk debating with politicians supporting Proposition 6 showed real strength and intelligence. Also, any man that had the guts to stand up to Diane Feinstein was certainly no limp-wristed fairy. I’m disappointed that Penn felt it was necessary to bring those stereotypical personality traits into his performance. Surely he knows enough gay people in Hollywood to understand we don’t all act like that. Perhaps he feels the only way an American audience would believe the character was gay was if he “acted gay”.

Seeing the coverage of the Dan White trial made me even more angry than I had been after the movie. Listening to the interviews with his defense attorney, wife and supporters was sickening. The idea that Dan White should be pitied and that what he did was justifiable and excusable is gross. There are a lot of people in the world who have much more difficult circumstances than All-American athletic pretty boys like Dan White and they don’t resort to murder to solve their problems. The justice system failed Moscone and Milk in this instance.

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