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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Milk discovers a sense of purpose when he moves to San Francisco with and becomes an equal-rights advocate. His story gives hope to countless gay men, many of whom are afraid to come out. Milk and his longtime boyfriend appear to have a nurturing, supportive relationship, but when they break up, Milk finds himself embroiled in a highly dysfunctional relationship, which unfortunately ends in suicide. Later, Milk himself is assassinated by a fellow politician. Political intrigue and betrayals are revealed; the assassination plays out in excruciating detail onscreen.
Violence & Scariness
A man shoots two others, point blank. Another man is beat up in a hate crime. Black-and-white archival footage shows homosexuals being harassed by cops. Also, a man Milk is involved with hangs himself; the scene in which his body is discovered is upsetting and somewhat gruesome.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Hook ups between men. Lots of ogling and a fair number of conversations filled with sexual innuendo (including discussion of what one person would "do" to another). Naked photos; a man walks around in his briefs. Men kiss and grope each other.
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Fairly explicit, including "c--ksucking," "dick," "s--t," "f--k," "prick," and more. A derogatory epithet that starts with "f" is also hurled a few times.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking, some to the point of inebriation. Some characters are shown rolling marijuana.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this intense, stirring drama examines the life of Harvey Milk, a civil- and gay-rights advocate who was assassinated in 1978. It explores prejudice against homosexuals and traces the beginnings of the gay rights movement. The film offers an unflinching look at homophobia during that era. Expect strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t"), sexual situations, partial nudity, political manipulation, suicide, and murder. Some material may be too challenging for younger teens, but older teens and adults will find it a thought-provoking piece of history. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Although this film wears its politics on its sleeve, it does so with finely tuned storytelling and brilliant pacing that propels the action forward without sacrificing character development. "Message" films often fail to distinguish themselves cinematically because they're so focused on hitting their talking points -- but MILK isn't that kind of message movie. Penn delivers an Oscar-worthy perofrmance as Milk, a San Francisco icon who's presented with all the complexities of an everyman -- a charismatic, courageous everyman -- who finds his way to greatness. Happily, the supporting cast -- particularly Franco, Brolin, and Emile Hirsch as Milk's friend/fellow activist Cleve Jones -- are also up to snuff. (That said, though it's true Milk traveled in large social circles, his entourage could have been trimmed for the film so it wouldn't feel quite so crowded.)
Director Gus Van Sant, who unleashes a singular vision here, throws archival footage into the mix, giving it heft -- not that Milk really needed any more of it. The film is infused with a palpable sense of purpose. Soulful, enlightening, politically relevant, and thoroughly affecting, Milk will leave audiences breathless.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.