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Milk (2008)

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The story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California's first openly gay elected official.

Director:

Gus Van Sant
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Popularity
2,729 ( 593)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 61 wins & 141 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sean Penn ... Harvey Milk
Emile Hirsch ... Cleve Jones
Josh Brolin ... Dan White
Diego Luna ... Jack Lira
James Franco ... Scott Smith
Alison Pill ... Anne Kronenberg
Victor Garber ... Mayor Moscone
Denis O'Hare ... John Briggs
Joseph Cross ... Dick Pabich
Stephen Spinella ... Rick Stokes
Lucas Grabeel ... Danny Nicoletta
Brandon Boyce ... Jim Rivaldo
Howard Rosenman ... David Goodstein (as Zvi Howard Rosenman)
Kelvin Yu ... Michael Wong
Jeff Koons ... Art Agnos
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Storyline

Using flashbacks from a statement recorded late in life and archival footage for atmosphere, this film traces Harvey Milk's career from his 40th birthday to his death. He leaves the closet and New York, opens a camera shop that becomes the salon for San Francisco's growing gay community, and organizes gays' purchasing power to build political alliances. He runs for office with lover Scott Smith as his campaign manager. Victory finally comes on the same day Dan White wins in the city's conservative district. The rest of the film sketches Milk's relationship with White and the 1978 fight against a statewide initiative to bar gays and their supporters from public school jobs. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Never blend in See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 January 2009 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Untitled Harvey Milk Project See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,453,844, 30 November 2008, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$31,841,299

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$57,293,371
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The apartment that was used in the film is the real apartment Harvey Milk lived in on the Lower Haight in San Francisco. See more »

Goofs

When Harvey Milk mounts a soapbox, a U.S. Postal Service vehicle from the late 1980s is in the background. See more »

Quotes

Harvey Milk: [answering the phone] Scotty?
Paul: I'm sorry, sir. I read about you in the paper.
Harvey Milk: I'm sorry, I can't talk right now.
Paul: Sir, I think I'm gonna kill myself.
Harvey Milk: No, you don't want to do that. Where are you calling from?
Paul: Minnesota.
Harvey Milk: You saw my picture in the paper in Minnesota? How did I look?
Paul: My folks are gonna take me to this place tomorrow. A hospital. To fix me.
Harvey Milk: There's nothing wrong with you - listen to me: You just get on a bus, to the nearest big city, to Los Angeles or New York or San Fransisco, it ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Donald Trump/Sia (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Walk through 'Resonant Landscape' No. 2
Written and Performed by Frances White
Courtesy of Mode Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

"I am not a candidate, I am part of a movement. The movement is the candidate."
15 December 2008 | by ametaphysicalsharkSee all my reviews

"Milk" sees Gus Van Sant return to the mainstream after nearly a decade of divisive 'arthouse' films, a spell he might have felt was necessary after directing "Psycho" and "Finding Forrester" back to back. The stunning, beautiful "Gerry" is still his greatest film in my estimation, but Van Sant's return to near-unanimous mainstream acclaim and some level of box-office success in "Milk" actually isn't too far off as far as Van Sant's filmography goes. Some may express disappointment that "Milk" is a 'conventional' biopic, but it really isn't conventional at all. True, this could have been the sort of melancholy meditation Van Sant has been going for in recent years, but the best argument against that is that Harvey Milk is not that figure. He's not going to sit quietly and contemplate life. Perhaps he might have before we meet him on the eve of his fortieth birthday, but from that point onwards Harvey Milk was a man of action, of words, a man with the powerful ability to rally people for a cause, and not only gay people. He had a rare sort of energy, and an energetic film was needed to tell his story. Most impressive perhaps about Van Sant's direction and Dustin Lance Black's screenplay is that there are just as many of those melancholic, meditative moments as needed, just enough to make this a compelling character study and not a truly conventional biopic with a hero rather than a main character. The photography here is also simply gorgeous, and the camera work is outstanding, particularly the hand-held work during the rally scenes. It really succeeds in transporting you to 1970's San Francisco. Sean Penn has frequently annoyed me. I respect his abilities, but reserve the right to express my subjective annoyance at what I perceive as sometimes hilarious over-acting. When I found out that he was going to play Harvey Milk I was nervous, since I have admired Harvey Milk ever since I was first exposed to him through the Rob Epstein documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk", which is still the best movie made about Harvey Milk, with "Milk" running a close second, and I doubt Bryan Singer's "Mayor of Castro Street" will be a serious contender. I had no reason to be nervous. Penn's performance is one of the most vibrant, fascinating, brilliant performances in years, and one of the most convincing and human. It's not a Harvey Milk impression, it's more than just that, but he truly does capture the 'essence' of Milk, if you will. It is pointless to make a political statement in the body of this review, so take this as one only if you have to: it is disgusting that in 2008 gay rights still a matter of political debate. This film is a powerful, beautiful tribute to the rights movement. It's not a Democrats vs. Republicans film. In fact, it makes it clear that Harvey Milk was once a Republican, and sneaks in footage of Reagan in strong opposition of Proposition 6. Those short scenes should provoke some thought and discussion. They certainly did for me and the people I saw the film with. Ultimately however the film is not about an 'issue'. Harvey Milk says to Dan White that it's not about jobs or rights, that it's their lives that they were and still are fighting for. Ultimately this film is about people, not about issues, not about policy. It's about people who were told they were sick, who were told they were wrong, who were told they would corrupt society, who were accused of being pedophiles and attempting to 'recruit' children to homosexuality. The film is about Harvey Milk, a mere human being who did more for freedom and tolerance than he probably ever understood. "I am not a candidate, I am part of a movement. The movement is the candidate." Unfortunately, the fight against the rampant discrimination against and hatred of homosexuals is still not over. Milk's movement lives on, and grows stronger every day. He would be proud of that, and devastated that our society has not truly progressed, but only learned to mask its intolerance and hatred.


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