Movie Review: Milk

Critical Mass

by Troy Patterson

Gus Van Sant's portrait of San Francisco politician Harvey Milk clunks along as the squarest movie he's ever made, a result of the director investing more emotion in the martyred idol than in the bleeding man. Dictating his biography at his kitchen table -- didactically connecting the dots -- Penn's hero flashes back to his origins as an activist in the '70s, when gays were getting murdered in the streets of the Castro and demagogues were defaming them nationwide. He thrice runs for office and loses, but his supporters cheer him to keep scrapping along in words reserved for biopics: "You'll be the first openly gay man elected to major office in the U.S.!"The considerable allure of Penn and his costars -- including James Franco as a neglected boyfriend and Brolin as an unhinged rival -- can't quite fight the power of those thumping statements.

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