Saturday, February 21, 2009

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Milk

This was a good movie, but not the masterpiece I was expecting based on the acclaim it has garnered. The unfortunate thing for me is that I'd say the bulk of my problems with it come from filmmaking decisions which overshadow a great script and excellent acting performances. The first half of the movie is just badly paced, racing through the early portion of Milk's awakening as an activist and taking all the punch out of landmark events. Once things slow down for the second half after he's established and time is taken to really invest in the workings Milk's life and the politicial system, it gets good, but your end result is an uneven viewing experience. This could have been a very strong three hour movie, but instead, it's a clunky two hour piece. Gus Van Sant also makes some weird choices with slow mo shots and other strange cuts that don't work for me, again, mostly at the beginning--it's like he figured things out when he was halfway done and then didn't bother going back to fix his mistakes. As to the story, it's an important, powerful one and I'm glad it was told; the screenplay is definitely top notch. Sean Penn is charming as Harvey Milk and you can really tell how much he invested himself into becoming this real-life figure, which makes what he does all the more impressive. Emile Hirsch is excellent; James Franco, Diego Luna and Alison Pill are all really good. I'm a bit split on Josh Brolin, but it's hard to process him as a conservative politician and take it seriously after W. I'd recommend Milk, but I wouldn't raise your expectations too high; you'll appreciate it more that way.

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