Four stars. Milk is not only a movie whose time has come, it's also a cause for celebration. Sean Penn all but vanishes in the first moments of Milk and subtly becomes Harvey Milk. The role of a lifetime. Hugely impressive are Josh Brolin and James Franco. Armed with solid support from Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Joseph Cross, and Alison Pill, the movie has the feel of an intimate epic. Directed by Gus Van Sant from a screenplay by Dustin Lance Black, Milk conveys a shrewd sense of period and place, catching the look, sound, and feel of the era. A rousing, lump-in-the-throat crowd-pleaser that is easily one of the year's best, most-affecting films. Bravo.
Funny, moving, and full of truth! Sean Penn rules as an everyman who, finding his courage, transforms his life and countless others. Gus Van Sant's Milk sports great work by Emile Hirsch, James Franco, and Josh Brolin.
As good as most of the cast is, the show belongs squarely to Penn. Made to more closely resemble Milk via an elongated nose, which also makes his face look narrower, the actor socks over his characterization of a man he’s made to seem, above all, a really sweet guy, but who crucially possessed the fearlessness and toughness to be a highly successful political motivator, agitator and, ultimately, figurehead of a movement. Penn’s Harvey is a man with a ready laugh, alive to the moment, open to life regardless of neuroses and past tragedies, and acutely aware of one’s limited time on Earth. The explosive anger and fury often summoned by Penn in his work is nowhere to be seen, replaced by a geniality that is as welcome as it is unexpected.
The film is superbly crafted, covering huge amounts of time, people and the zeitgeist without a moment of lapsed energy or inattention to detail. Even the opening moments -- black-and-white archival footage of cops rousting men covering their faces from gay bars of the '50s and '60s, the kind of harassment that led to the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York -- offer a poignant reminder of what was not that long ago.
Milk is a briskly-told, warmly humanistic and stirring portrait of inspirational gay activist and politician Harvey Milk who was assassinated in San Francisco in 1978. Boasting a set of superb performances by a starry, largely male cast, the film will immediately win over liberal audiences. Awards recognition for the film will keep it in the public eye.