Despite a star-studded cast and a high profile director, Focus Features' new biopic about the first openly gay pol in California history isn't getting any push from the studio before its Dec. 8 release. Focus' last spectacularly gay-friendly film, Brokeback Mountain was a major winner, so call the development puzzling. Focus execs are spinning that they want the film to gain word-of-mouth slowly, but Occam's razor gives us a better explanation: Milk just isn't very good.In light of the political climate surrounding California's Proposition 8, Focus higher-ups have avoided pushing Milk. The Hollywood Reporter notes that the film is "eschewing publicity, keeping its awards contender out of fall fests and heavily restricting media screenings."
This is in stark contrast to the company's promotion of Brokeback, which directly courted gays, an approach that paid off in the form of a $178 million dollar gross. Reports that elderly couples tried to walk out of early screenings surely didn't help, but Milk was going to struggle to be a crossover flick regardless of how it was promoted. Brokeback proved that a film depicting gay love could be successful without an audience that can't accept the material, but when a studio declares it must be very, very quiet in promoting a film, it pushes us toward another conclusion: Milk is going to be so bad Sean Penn won't have a chance at Oscar time no matter how many full page ads Focus runs.