Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Got Milk

Sean Penn’s compelling, Oscar-worthy performance alone is enough reason to watch Milk, although happily the whole movie deserves the nominations it garnered. There were times when I was aware that I was watching the actor Sean Penn execute such a delicate tightrope act; if other Academy members felt the same as me, it may cost him some votes come Oscar night.

But Penn’s transformation as Milk was relentless, and in a couple of scenes his performance was truly moving and totally engaging. The multitude of mixed emotions that flashes through Milk’s face as he sees the gun and realizes he’s about to die was truly a sight to behold, in turn mesmerizing, frightening and most of all, saddening. And in a gripping scene much earlier, Milk and company were agonizing over the ballot returns; they thought they were losing the fight against Proposition 6 (which would mandate the firing of the state’s openly gay teachers). But then they received a phone call that, contrary to what they feared, they had actually won by a wide margin. In that scene, Penn’s Milk is reduced to a giddy, shrieking queer, a vision of joy and euphoria in pure gay abandon. And for that moment I was instantly there in California, 1978.

The triumph of those scenes wasn’t just Penn’s acting, of course. Director Gus Van Sant’s films can be challenging to watch at times, but in Milk he decides to tell his story in a more, pardon the phrase, straight-forward fashion (although he does jump back and forth in time quite effectively). His appropriate use of actual photos and footage as inter-cuts works effectively to ground the film in its milieu while making the portrayed events urgent, compelling and current. I thought he went a little too obvious and heavy-handed with the opera motif, with its tragic ending and larger-than-life drama; but then again, that is opera. Still, it might also cost him and his film some votes on Oscar night.

The obvious-intolerant moviegoer may not fully enjoy taking in Milk, but the rest can just lap it all up.

2 comments:

Misterhubs said...

Good movie over-all but I found it too documentary-ish for my taste.

Sean Pean was good but Mickey Rourke was damn exceptional in The Wrestler so I'm rooting for old Mickey.

James Franco is hawt. Hehe.

Mr. Scheez said...

I heart Emile Hirsh in this movie. He's sooo cute!

Like Misterhubs, I'm rooting for Mickey Rourke to get the Oscar statuette on February 22. =)

Cheers!