Plot: What’s it about?
No, it’s not an ad for your favorite dairy product, rather “Milk” is the story of one of this country’s pioneers of the gay rights movement. Admittedly, I’d never heard of Harvey Milk before the movie came out and, ironically enough, my aunt (who was the managing editor of the San Francisco Examiner in the 80’s/90’s) was friends with him and has actually saved some of his memos to her. But let’s focus on a few things closer to the surface, shall we? “Milk” is directed by Gus Van Sant, who made a name for himself directing music videos and helmed “Good Will Hunting”. It stars Sean Penn who took home his second Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Harvey Milk and sports an all-star cast including Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin and James Franco. Like most films praised for their acting, sometimes that overshadows the movie itself and I feel this might be the case here. Still, on with the plot…
We meet Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) as he’s in the subway in New York City. He picks up Scott (James Franco), the two fall in love and move out to San Francisco feeling that they might be more accepted. They settle in the Castro district of the city and open a camera store and quickly find out that not everyone is equal ? even in San Francisco. Harvey gets tired of the prejudice and decides to run for public office. He loses. He runs again. He loses. But he gains momentum. Throughout this time, he’s gaining popularity and when a miracle happens (a re-drawing of the district voting lines), it gives Milk the opportunity to win the election and put the first gay public official in office. Naturally this doesn’t sit too well with some, namely Dan Smith (Josh Brolin), the former police officer turned public official. We all know what happened, but this is the story of how and why.
“Milk” is a perfectly good movie, it’s got some great performances and Penn was well-deserving of his Oscar win. After speaking with my aunt, she said that Penn’s performance was pretty much spot on except that Penn is noticeably shorter and smaller than Milk was (evidently he was a very tall man). That aside, the movie does give us a good indication of what it must have been like, and in many ways still is, for homosexuals trying to make their way. Van Sant has placed an energetic soundtrack, mixed in some stock footage and pumped up the volume in some parts to give us more of a psychedelic look at life in San Francisco in the 70’s. While “Milk” might actually be remembered for its acting rather than the story itself, it’s a great film and certainly worthy of a viewing.
Video: How does it look?
In the age of widescreen TV’s, everything seems to be getting wider. Most films are shot in a 2.35:1 ? 2.40:1 aspect ratio these days so it’s nice to see a film that actually takes up the entire screen. “Milk” is shown in a 1.85:1 VC-1 HD transfer that looks, by and large, pretty good. As I noted above, there are plenty of scenes that contain some stock and archived footage and the result is a noticeably grainy image. The movie itself looks good; colors are bright and vivid with contrast looking just fine. The transfer does seem to have a fairly stylized look and feel to it and with that said, it does fall short of perfection. It looks decent enough, but viewers shouldn’t have anything to complain about as it’s consistent with a day and date Blu-ray release.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS-Master Audio track sounds pretty much as I expected it to sound, very robust with the majority of the track being dialogue-driven. There are some montage scenes that have some good sound to accompany them and let’s face it ? “Milk” won’t shake the room nor was it meant to. Vocals are particularly strong, ambient sound is at a minimum and the surrounds do come into play however not as often as I’d have liked. It’s a decent sounding-track and one that won’t disappoint.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Unfortunately, “Milk” doesn’t have a lot of substance when it comes to supplements. Maybe Universal wanted to see how it fared at the Academy Awards? We’ve got some deleted scenes along with a few featurettes. The first, “Remembering Harvey” has some footage and photos as the cast reflects on the importance of the man. Next up is “Hollywood comes to San Francisco” in which the cast talks about just that. Lastly we have “Marching for Equality” in which some of Harvey’s friends reflect on the various marches that took place some thirty years ago. Also “exclusive” to Blu-ray is the BD Live feature (which I never use) and you can share your bookmarks.