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Film: Milk

Milk is a 2008 film, that was directed by Gus Van Sant and stars Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, James Franco, and Josh Brolin.

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 ban gays and their supporters from public school jobs.

Milk was nominated for countless awards, and won 2 Oscars for original screenplay and lead actor, Penn's second win. It was also nominated for picture, director, and supporting actor (Brolin).

Not to be confused with the drink, nor with the film Milk Money.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Maybe a smidge, but the photomontage at the end shows that they got the likenesses really close. And the performances are excellent across the board, so it's easy to forgive.
  • Betty and Veronica: With Harvey as Archie, Scott as Betty, and Jack as Veronica.
  • Biopic
  • Broken Bird: Jack. Possibly Dan as well.
  • Bury Your Gays: Justified in that this is a true story and Harvey really was assassinated by Dan White, but as far as we know it was not because Harvey was gay.
    • Also averted, since almost every character with a speaking part in the film is gay, and are alive at the end.
    • Justifiedly played straight with Jack.
  • But Not Too Gay: Completely subverted at the beginning of the film.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Justified due to the setting.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "He will be stabbed and have your genitals, cock balls and prick cut off."
  • Driven to Suicide: Apparently an appalling number of Harvey's lovers including Jack. In the what-happened-after epilogue, we learn that White killed himself some years after being released from jail.
  • Drag Queen: None of the major characters, but they can be seen in the background of all the major protests.
  • Enter Stage Window: To avoid metal detectors and get his gun into City Hall, Dan White climbs through a basement window. This actually happened.
  • Five-Token Band: Along with Harvey Milk, an openly gay man, the Board of Supervisors that he becomes a part of includes Gordon Lau, a Chinese-American, and Carol Ruth Silver, a single mother.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Harvey Milk is killed. Actually, the film starts with the announcement of his assassination.
  • The Fundamentalist: State Legislator John Briggs and Anita Bryant.
  • Gay Aesop: Possibly a Trope Codifier.
  • Gayborhood: Justified due to the setting, since it was Harvey's base of political support.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Buckets of it. Rather expected due to the subject matter.
  • Important Haircut: Harvey gets one of these, along with a shave, in order to get more votes.
  • Irony as She Is Cast: Anti-gay state senator John Briggs is played by openly gay actor Denis O'Hare.
  • Nobody over 50 Is Gay: Averted. The film provides a fairly wide tapestry of homosexual men. And if Milk had lived he'd be 80 in 2010.
    • Also, he's already in his forties during the events of the film and often jokes about his age. He died at age 48.
  • Married to the Job: What causes a rift between Harvey and Scott.
  • May-December Romance: Harvey is in his early 40s, while at least one of his boyfriends appears to be in his early-to-mid 20s (who even starts their relationship by asserting he doesn't date guys over 40).
  • Mononymous Biopic Title
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Well, more like suicide of the hypotenuse in this case. Jack's suicide, to be specific.
  • Oscar Bait
  • Queer Romance: The film has two significant homosexual love stories.
  • The Seventies
  • Shown Their Work: The filmmakers used historical photographs of the actual events as a guide for certain shots and shot the scenes in the original locations, even going so far as to recreate Harvey Milk's camera shop at its original address. Some of the actors, most notably Sean Penn, even wore their characters' actual clothes during filming.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Judging by the scenes that weren't archive footage, there was exactly one (1) woman fighting for her rights alongside Milk. Even the crowd scenes had more drag queens than women.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Harvey talks Paul, a disabled gay kid, out of killing himself.
  • Theme Naming: By accident: Milk and White.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Harvey's preferred love interests.
  • Waistcoat of Style: Harvey
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: At the end, pictures of the actual people depicted in the film, and brief summaries of their lives after the assassination are shown.
  • You Remind Me of X: Late in the movie, Harvey expresses his concerns to George Moscone about Dan White getting reappointed. Harvey even uses the "You will not be elected dog catcher" line.
    Moscone: You know who you sounded like just now? Boss Tweed. Or Mayor Daley.
    Harvey (snickering): I like that. A homosexual with power. That's scary.
MidwayCreator/UniversalThe Money Pit
Frost/NixonAcademy AwardThe Reader
Creator BreakdownImageSource/Live-Action FilmsMinority Report
Man on WireThe SeventiesMunich
Midnight MovieFilms of 2005 - 2009 Minutemen

alternative title(s): Milk
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