Milk was a middle-aged closet case who moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s, became politically active, and started running for office, unsuccessfully at first. “The Mayor of Castro Street” was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, the first openly gay man to hold public office in the United States. A year later, only days after the anti-gay Californian ballot initiative, Proposition 6, went down to defeat, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were murdered by ex-Supervisor Dan White.
Sean Penn is convincing as Harvey Milk, an ordinary man who became an impassioned gay activist and an inspirational leader, unapologetic about his sexuality. Both during his life and after, Milk’s example leads other people to come out and stop hiding. Milk’s relentless focus on politics costs him his personal life, driving away first one lover, then another.
Josh Brolin plays Dan White, not as a caricatured villain, but as a confused and angry man, who has a difficult working relationship with Milk.
Van Sant has created a believable and gripping biopic, showing the burgeoning gay rights movement in the brief, golden decade between the Stonewall riots and AIDS.
Milk is certain to earn some Oscar nominations.