Just seen Gus Van Sant's new one, here is my review...
rel-16 Jan 2009
Dir. Gus Van Sant
Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch
Understandably, there is early Oscar talk surrounding Milk. Penn looks set to be on the awards trail again with this assured, entertaining yet undeniably 'worthy' biopic from the inconsistent Mr Van Sant. However, underneath the hyperbole emerges a remarkable film about a remarkable man.
Penn plays Harvey Milk, Gay Rights activist and San Francisco's first openly gay city official. HIs rise to power and influence and subsequent tragic demise are captured sensitively. It's no hagiography either. Milk was no saint or martyr and the filmmakers have made no attempt to disguise a formidable ego and a somewhat manipulative personality. He was however a tireless campaigner and fine speaker who worked with the best of intentions and ideals. Penn is absolutely believable as Milk and imbues the role with a level of charisma that is just great to watch.
There is tremendous support too from Hirsch (Speed Racer, Alpha Dog) and Franco (Spiderman, Pineapple Express) as Milk's right hand man and lover respectively. However, it is Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men, W) as Milk's sometime colleague and nemesis Dan White who really impresses, particularly when on screen with Penn. Brolin nails the tragic flaws in White's make-up, displaying true finesse in instilling real depth and inner turmoil in such an un-likeable character.
Easily Van Sant's most complete movie to date, Milk is where the early promise of Drugstore Cowboy, To Die For and Good Will Hunting really falls into place. With debates over same sex marriage currently raging in California the film is hugely relevant. More importantly, it is a timeless story of a man unafraid to face the injustices and prejudices of society to create lasting change.