“I was able to catch an early screening of Milk in Portland this weekend, and can confirm that it’s stellar,” a critic friend wrote last night. “It’s impassioned and immediate, with beautiful use of light. It looks as if Gus Van Sant shot every major scene around 4:30 pm — not the ‘golden hour’ but that especially crisp hour right before.
“I’m not much of a Sean Penn fan — I generally find his showiness distracting — but he disappears into Harvey Milk. I think he’s a lock for a Best Actor nomination. James Franco is also exceptionally subtle, though I suspect his low-key work will be ignored in favor of Josh Brolin‘s performance as Dan White, who gets a couple of emotive clips in, and Emile Hirsch, who plays completely against expectations as a street hustler who Milk convinces to politically organize his fellow tricks.
“The most interesting thing to me about the movie — and the reason why I thought I’d write you about it — is that I don’t think it would have been possible without Brokeback Mountain‘s mainstream success. This is a picture focusing on an activist gay man with a flamboyant streak and several lovers (mostly offscreen) and despite the poignant ending, it focuses less on gay suffering and more on the thrill of finding personal identity and a political voice. It isn’t afraid to come busting joyfully out of the closet, and I’m not sure it could have gotten the traction it will get, if not for Brokeback.”
It doesn’t include the Dan White trail and the twinkie defense, the subsequent aquittal and the White Night Riots at City Hall that followed, he says. “It ends at the candlelight vigil,” he explains. The other stuff is covered in a “where are they now?” text.