Milk – It Does Every Body Good

Earlier today I went to the movies with Linda to see the movie, Milk. Milk is the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to a public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by ex-Supervisor Dan White. During his trial, Dan’s lawyers argued that Dan suffered from an imbalance caused from eating junk food. (Later referred to as “the Twinkee defense”) Dan was only convicted of manslaughter, resulting in a 5 year prison sentence. Two years after his release, White committed suicide.

The movie was incredible. Now before you start saying things like, “you’re gay, of course you think the movie was incredible” let me tell you that this movie transcends gay and straight. Sean Penn’s performance as Harvey Milk was nothing less than stellar. He brought Harvey Milk to life like I believe no other actor could. Playing famous people can be difficult, running the risk of turning in a representation that can end up being more of a caricature of the person much like Faye Dunaway did with Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest. (I loved that movie. It’s so campy!) Penn, however, didn’t just portray Milk he became Milk much like Philip Seymour Hoffman became Truman Capote in Capote. Although Hoffman’s performace was “spot-on,” I found Capote boring.

To the contrary, Milk was engaging and engrossing. Mixed with actual footage, the movie begins with the end of Harvey and quickly jumps to when he first meets his long-time partner, Scott Smith, portrayed (in what should be a supporting Oscar nominated performance) by James Franco. It follows the two as they head on to San Francisco where they open a camera shop on Castro Street.

Motivated by Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign geared at attacking homosexuals, Milk was eventually elected as a San Francisco District Supervisor. Further fueled by the Briggs Initiative (Proposition 6), it is Milk who can be attributed to its defeat.

This isn’t fiction folks, this is history. Gays were beaten and arrested simply because they were in a gay bar. Proposition 6 not only would have required the immediate dismissal of all gay teachers but anyone who sympathized with them as well. It was a scary time and a time I remember oh so well. I lived in California in 1978 when Proposition 6 was going to the ballot.

I was living in Santa Ana with my future ex-wife Janine. We were both 18 and fresh from NJ. I was appalled and horrified over what was happening and decided to write a letter to the editor of the local paper expressing my dislike. Several days after the letter was mailed, a reporter came knocking on our door. We didn’t have a phone and he wanted to confirm my letter so he could print it in the paper. I was astonished that they wanted to publish my letter so much that they would come to my apartment to confirm it.

I was also in California when Milk was assassinated in November of ’78. One year later, I would be back in NJ, 19 years old, with a wife, a new born baby girl and living a lie. At the time, I had not fully understood what Harvey had done for me and millions like me. But I do now, especially with what recently happened in California and the ban on gay marriage.

Please, go see Milk. Go see it for the amazing performances. Go see it as a representation of history. Go see it because it’s probably going to be an Oscar nominated film. For whatever reason you choose, just go see it.

The mural below was painted on the wall of what was once Harvey’s camera shop on Castro street. The words shooting from the bullet is a Milk quote, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let the bullet destroy every closet door.” I’ll take it one step further: Go to the movie and let it open your door-the door to your mind and your heart.


41 thoughts on “Milk – It Does Every Body Good

  1. Rachael says:


    That does sound like a good movie and I love true stories…I am a bit of a history buff too. The rebellious side of me enjoys seeing controversial films as well. We just watched “Incovenient Truth” and found it very interesting!!!

    Thanks for the great post, you have inspired me to take my hubby to see this movie.

    I’ll let you know what I think of it, but I am pretty sure I will LOVE it 🙂

  2. Heather says:

    Oh I so totally want to see Milk! Unfortunately, with Kiddo and limited access to cheap (aka free) babysitters, it is rare for us to get to a movie. This one is on my list of Ones To See As Soon As Possible….. hopefully that will be before it comes out on DVD!!

    Glad to hear it was as good as the professional critics have been saying.

  3. jewelstreet says:

    This is a very good post. I was born in 79 so Harvey Milk is/was before my time. I enjoy learning history especially history that is not often told. I think I shall change my stance on Sean Penn movies and see this one. Especially now I have heard it from your point of view as someone who was there when this was going on.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. heathersister says:

    I remember seeing a preview for this movie. Didn’t really know what it was about, do now. I don’t see it playing at any of our local National Amusement Theaters. When did it hit the theaters, maybe it’s not here yet?

  5. TattooedMinivanMom says:

    Wow Preston.

    What a great review of that film. You expressed your feelings and views very eloquently.

    I’m not bullsh*tting you either. I’m being serious.

    You ever consider being a critic?

    Also, LOVED Mommy Dearest. My sister and I always used to freeze frame pause it on her face when she had that cream mask on and was going off cause of the wire hangers. She was kinda crossed eyed and psycho looking. We giggled our little asses off every time.

  6. Preston says:

    Rachael – It really was a great movie with an excellent cast. I’m glad I have inspired you to go see it. I’m sure you will love it.

    Heather – I remember those days of trying to get babysitters. Even if you don’t get to see it in the Theater, it’s definitely worth the rent.

    Jewelstreet – I am not a fan of Sean Penn and it certainly did change my opinion of him. Go see the movie. It was as accurate as I remember.

    Heathersister – It’s a limited engagement showing so it’s not at the major movie theaters. I saw it at the Ritz theater. You can go to the Fandango website and check for where it is showing.

    Tattoed Minivan Mom – Gosh, you make me blush. I really hope you go see it. And oh how I loved Mommy Dearest, especially the scene when she was cutting up the roses and chopped the damn tree down!

    Erin, Nick, and Merrick – Thanks. I hope you go see the movie.

  7. Kat says:

    NO Wire Hangers! That is such a great/campy movie 🙂

    And like Heather – I probably won’t get to see Milk before it arrives from netflix. I actually already have it in my queue. But you never know when I might eek a night out. Today we went and saw “Bolt” in 3d. Very fun. Not Milk…but fun.

  8. Julie says:

    That really was a great review…made me want to go see it and I’ve never heard of it. I usually do like true stories.

  9. Linh says:

    Like Heather, it’s hard for us to get out for a movie these days but I would love to see this. I already added it to my Netflix queue. I know it will be a while before it’s available but if I don’t do it now, by the time it comes out I will totally forget.

  10. Preston says:

    Kat – Oh, I want to see Bolt in 3D too and that is one movie you really would need to see in the theater to get the full extent. I’m glad Milk is in your que.

    Julie – I’m glad you want to go see it. You really will enjoy it.

    Linh – I am so glad you added it to your Netflix queue. You’ll be glad you did.

  11. Babette says:

    I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this movie. I like Sean Penn, he’s an amazing actor. I rememnber watching a documentary about Harvey Milk on cable a while back. There was also a movie about the murders ‘Execution of Justice’.

  12. MakingMoney says:

    I never heard of it but your review makes it sound like a great film. I like watching true story historical films, you learn lot’s of eye opening things watching them. Great review!

  13. Preston says:

    Babette – It really is worth the see.

    Makingmoney – A lot of people haven’t heard of the movie or of Harvey Milk. Go see the movie. You won’t be disappointed.

  14. Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) says:

    Wandered over here from SITS…and I’m glad I did! Great post, awesome review – I had seen previews of the movie, but wasn’t quite sure what it was about (sometimes the previews give away the entire movie, and others give absolutely nothing… *grin!*) Now you’ve intrigued me into wanting to take hubby to see it… 🙂

    Thanks for the great post and review! I am enjoying your blog! 😉

  15. Preston says:

    Keeper of the Skies Wife – Thanks. It’s a really good movie-you’re gonna enjoy it.

    Stacy’s Random Thoughts –
    SITS members are always welcome here. Go take the hubby and see the movie. You’ll be glad you did! (and I am glad you enjoy my blog)

  16. ElleBee says:

    I’ve heard such good things about “Milk”. Thanks for sharing your review. Apparently, the critics agree, and I’ve heard buzz about an Oscar nod for Sean Penn. Certainly has come a long way since “Fast Times”! 🙂

  17. mongoliangirl says:

    Harvey Milk is one of my heroes!! Have you seen the '84 documentary about him? "The Life & Times of Harvey Milk". It won a well deserved Academy Award and ALWAYS brings me to tears.

  18. Preston says:

    Ellebee – Yes, there’s been a lot of buzz about this movie. Go see it. You’ll be glad you did.

    Mongoliangirl – Yes, I’ve seen the documentary about him and Harvey is one of my heroes too! Have you seen the movie yet?

  19. Jen says:

    I can’t wait to see this movie. I remember the whole Anita Bryant thing when it happened. My dad threw out all of our orange juice and vowed that we would only drink grapefruit juice, cranberry juice and apple juice. Actually its when I developed my addiction to diet pop.

    I finally got you listed on my blogroll over at sorry it took so long.

  20. Lola says:

    Awesome review. My partner and I REALLY want to go see it, but it is still not playing near us and it is really frustrating.

  21. WheresMyAngels says:

    I don’t know any of this so thank you for the history lesson. I’ll have to watch it.

    Got to love those people whom have paved the way for the rest. Although the pavement will always need to be widened and repaired, it is there in the open for us to use.

  22. hope505 says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful review of that film – I have been wanting to go see it! I do like Sean Penn…check out "The Falcon and the Snowman" with him & Timothy Hutton if you haven't seen it!

  23. Preston says:

    Lola – Thanks. I’m hoping that all the buzz will mean more theatres will pick up this movie.

    Wheresmyangels – Glad to pass along some history. It’s a really good movie. Go see it.

    Hope505 – I have never seen the Falcon and the Snowman. I will have to check it out.

  24. wendy says:

    Sounds like a really neat movie. Sadly, I didn’t make it to a theater more than twice in 2008, so I’ll have to settle for the DVD!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today!

  25. Jaina says:

    Sounds very intriguing. I haven’t heard of it…but I didn’t bother to get cable (cause I’m never home to watch it) so I rarely see movie ads unless I’ve already heard of a movie and am specifically looking for it.

  26. Preston says:

    Jaina – It’s a very good movie but it’s not on cable, yet at least. It just came out of the theater. It’s got a limited engagement so it might be hard to find. But I guarentee it’s worth it.

  27. JD at I Do Things says:

    I got shivers! I love Sean Penn and have heard great things about this movie, but your review sealed the deal. Maybe I’ll try to catch it this weekend. I try to see all Oscar-nominated films, and I’m sure this one will be nominated, at least for Penn’s performance and maybe Franco’s. And maybe Brolin’s, too.

    Thanks for your unique perspective!

    JD at I Do Things

  28. Preston says:

    JD – I sure hope you go see it. The acting was superb and you are right about Brolin. I was surprised at how much he looked like Dan White and he gave a very believable portrayal of a conflicted man flailing in his own beliefs.

  29. Renée aka Mekhismom says:

    My aunt and uncle went to see Milk this weekend. They were explaining the story to me because I had never heard of Harvey Milk. For folks that are interested and can’t make it to the theater there is a documentary about Milk on Hulu. I plan on watching it.

    Thanks for the great review.

  30. Preston says:

    Renee – A lot of people never heard of Harvey Milk and I think this film is going to change that. I hope you get to see it.

    Steven – Glad you liked the write up. Now go see it!

  31. WheresMyAngels says:

    Okay, I told you I would have more about this, so I started with Anita and ran across this.

    “n 1977, Florida legislators approved a measure prohibiting gay adoption. The ban was overturned more than 30 years later when, on November 25, 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy S. Lederman declared it unconstitutional and “not rational.”

    Is this for real, has Florida JUST change this law. Course I guess there are many states like that. But it just shocks me.

  32. Mary Anna says:

    I don’t normally hire a sitter to see a movie, but this is one I’d like to see really bad! All of my guys have told me to go see it.

  33. The Stiletto Mom says:

    I have been dying to see this, your review makes me want to see it even more…time to call in the babysitters.

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