Directed by: Gus van Sant
Written by: Dustin Lance Black
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, and Emile Hirsch
Biopics may be one of the trickiest genres to pull off successfully. This is because they are probably some of the most over made, over praised films made today. It’s also because you need to tell an honest story that shows your subject’s dark side, but you also need to have some deep connection with them as well. Gus van Sant’s Milk is so refreshing not because it redefines the biopic, but because it raises the bar impeccably, almost impossibly, high.
Thanks to a terrific cast led by Sean Penn’s bone-deep performance, a deservedly Oscar-winning screenplay from Dustin Lance Black, and van Sant’s film making moxy and deep connection to the material, Milk flies on the wings of creative passion.
This being said, it is not a perfect film. If not for Penn’s incredible acting, Harvey Milk would almost be a two dimensional character. It’s dangerous to have such a kind human being be the subject of a biopic. Nothing against the kind, but they can be boring. Luckily, Penn is a live wire, and lets us see the mischievous politician behind Milk’s crowd-pleasing rebellion. His total immersion in the role earned him his second Best Actor Oscar of the decade, and he totally deserved it.