December 6, 2008

Milk

milkA great American story about civil rights, politics, and community organizing, the story of Harvey Milk has finally been told. The movie is super-gay and super-1970s, but in 2008, the year of Proposition 8, this story of civil rights seems more universal and timely than ever. The screenplay seems a little too well groomed at times, but the direction is deft, the use of archival footage is clever, and most of all, the performances are superb across the board.

MILK stars Sean Penn as we haven't seen him since Jeff Spicoli: having fun. Penn plays Milk as a nerdy prankster, charismatic and quick with a joke. Josh Brolin is fantastic as Dan White, a unstable rival politician. White plays the part of a successful American father and husband, but wound so tight that we wonder what's wrong with him. James Franco continues to impress me: first Pineapple Express, then this part, the "political wife" role.

NOTES: This is my second movie in a row with a gay director: first Australia (Baz Luhrmann), and now MILK (Gus Van Sant). Both movies prominently feature Judy Garland singing "Over The Rainbow". Coincidence? (Kendall Square Cinema with my wife, plus Eve & Brenda)