Saturday, December 20, 2008

HERE TO BE RECRUITED: Milk is certainly a fine film, with darn fine performances throughout, and by its nature, it's hard to talk about it without getting political, but three points that in my view weaken the film:
  1. The film owes a significant (and acknowledged at length in the credits) debt to Oscar winning doc The Times of Harvey Milk, and already, more people have probably seen the biopic than saw the documentary. That said, the biopic doesn't add a lot that wasn't in the documentary. Sure, there's a bit about Milk's tumultous personal life and a couple of miscellaneous points here and there (some of which may be the result of dramatic license), that aren't cribbed straight from the documentary, but the film doesn't really add to what's already out there.
  2. Obviously, California's passage of Prop 8 in November is important context to how viewers react, and the film was completed before the passage of Prop 8. To the extent we now read it as a response to Prop 8, it seems misguided. It's entirely possible there would have been a substantial number of people who'd oppose Prop 6 (the 70s California prop calling for homosexuals to be fired as teachers) but support Prop 8. It all reads just a little too on-the-nose and generalized. (Though that's not the fault of the filmmakers.)
  3. The most interesting part of the film is the part that explores the relationship between Milk and his assassin, Dan White. I wish there'd been more of that and the filmmakers showed us more of White, which would have helped limit the extent to which the biopic becomes a hagiography.
It's still a very well-done and moving film, especially for those not familiar with the Milk story already, but certainly isn't dislodging Slumdog Millionaire and Tell No One from the top of my list thus far this year.

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