Lately I've had the chance to watch quite some films that had much of an impact on me. The intensely sad 'Two Lovers', the touching 'The Wrestler'... And yesterday I went to see the Gus Van Sant picture 'Milk' about Harvey Milk, a gay activist in the seventies who became California's first openly gay elected official, played by Sean Penn who got rewarded with an Oscar for this part.
If you haven't seen it, definitely give this movie a go, I'm pretty sure you won't be complaining afterwards. Not only is the acting sublime (James Franco as Harvey's boyfriend - such a chemistry! - Scott, Emile Hirsch - who you might remember from 'Into The Wild'- as Harvey's protégé Cleve, Josh Brolin as Harvey's political opponent Dan White, and most of all Sean Penn as Harvey himself),
Milk is the perfect example of a great biopic - not too lusting for sensation but still a lot more absorbing as a story than a pure documentary would be like.
But there's more I want to share with you than just telling you what a great movie 'Milk' is. This morning I was scrolling through the viewer commentary's about this film on a Dutch website called MovieMeter. One remark was really surprising to me. Someone said that his biggest problem with 'Milk' was its lack of relevance. To quote the guy: "A biopic that should've been made 15 years ago. It lacks all relevance, the opponents of gay rights in this movie seem to be depicted half-retarded only to make Harvey Milk's actions look somewhat controversial." Ehm, all right. If anything or anyone lacks relevance, I guess it would be this person.
Yes indeed, the way of thinking of many of the gay rights opponents we get to hear and see in the film is absolutely retarded. They see gay people as pedophiles whose main goal in life is 'converting' people's children, as sick people who need to be cured. I would also call that a retarded bunch of ideas, but - unlike that person on MovieMeter - I, and fortunately also most other people on the website, seem to understand that this is not something that was set up for the movie in order to make Harvey Milk look like some rebel or hero. No, wether you like to believe it or not, a lot of people really believed those awful things back then, and a part of them unfortunately still does.
What Harvey Milk did was a very honorable thing to do, and not only because of its 'controversiality', which the MovieMeter guy seems to think is the main message that this film aims to send out. I guess a lot of people saw/see this the wrong way. Milk's opponent Dan White, for example, got it the wrong way when he said 'at least you've got an issue, Harvey'. White was obviously drunk, but Harvey felt the need to reply to him anyway. His struggle for gay rights was so much more than just an issue. It was not about him, it was not about having political power, it was not about being controversial by any means, it was about helping people of who he, more than anyone, knew that they needed help and hope, often even so much that it became a matter of life and death.
To come back to the relevance thing - I personally feel like 'Milk' is still more relevant than ever. Not only is it a good thing that people know the integration of gayness in our society is not just something that suddenly 'happened', but it's also still relevant because discrimination against gay people is not gone today, no matter how much we like to believe it is.
Okay, so far for me overreacting a little bit. ;) The MovieMeter guy probably didn't mean it all that bad, but sometimes I just wish people would think twice before making stupid remarks. I'm a hetero myself, but been active in the struggle against gay discrimination for a while now and I've already experienced how things aren't always as easy as they seem to be.