Saturday, 7 March 2009
Saw Milk the other day. Friends had been unhappy about Sean Penn getting the Oscar, just for playing a gay man. The generally quite reliable Dr Kermode said it was good enough but suggested, IIRC, that it was plodding and that it sanitised the 70s in the Castro. I don't think it sanitised it - it just edited it. It wasn't a film about bathhouses after all (although they were talked about), and it wasn't Friedkin's Cruising. It had that measured, metronomic feel that you get with all biopics, but I felt this was better than most of the breed.
And Sean Penn so deserved the Oscar! I thought he was tremendous. He didn't deserve it for playing a gay man when he's, to all appearances, a straight man. He deserved it because he played Harvey Milk beautifully. You saw the (perhaps, slightly unlikely) charisma and you saw the business skills turned to good purpose in the gay rights struggle. You saw light and shade. You saw how brave he was, how angry he was, how lonely he was, and how inept he was with his personal life, lucking in and lucking out. Happy times with James Franco (much better looking later in the 70s with the shorter hair and the clone moustache) and less happy times with the flaky man (portrayed thus at least) he took up with latterly.
So much bad clothing (1970s), so much bad hair (1970s), so many bad pairs of specs (it was the 70s, FFS!). You get Sylvester, you get Josh Brolin as the sexy assassin, you get James Franco and a spectacularly good Sean Penn. Plus you get to cry several times, laugh several times, tap your toes several times. I really liked it, lots. And I was there, so you should listen to me! Well, not there as in SF but there as in 1970s. Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end...