Saturday, January 31, 2009
The screening we attended of this film delivered more than just excellent acting and excellent screenplay: from a full house it also delivered very short queues for the women's loo!
Although a serious storyline, the characterisation by Sean Penn was conveyed with such a light touch that the film felt upbeat. Penn is improving with each film - I think the last one I saw him in was Mystic River. Here, he balances the light flirtatious side of Milk with the fervent politicisation that occurred during those few short years in San Francisco - from about 1970 until his death in 1978 - after barely a year of trying to implement his aims. The supporting characters were allowed to breathe, too, which is a relief in such a biopic. Scotty was appealing from the outset, as was Cleve, the smart-arse with the large glasses. Jack was a good characterisation but I found it hard to respond to his extreme neediness and desperation.
The drawback that occurred to me was the revisionism that crept into the screenplay. Milk's death was forseen - by him and by others - on just too many occasions. The final phone call with Scotty was embarrassingly twee as was the attendance at Tosca on the night before his death. Add to this the note on the fridge, and the threatened bullet if he stepped up to a microphone, and I swear the storytelling was structured with dollops of hindsight!
The mix of RL footage and recreation, made the narrative engrossing. As it was set in the 70s, both the hairstyles and the clothing brought a grin to my face on many an occasion. I had forgotten that Anita Bryant was such a bad guy.