I saw Milk yesterday, and it was incredi-freaking-able. Thoughts:
It reminds us of how persecuted we were, and how that persecution drove many of us deeper not just into our respective closets, but into our thick and heavy shells.
Sean Penn becomes the character. I would say he becomes Harvey Milk, but I can't, since I didn't know him. But not only is there not a false moment in Penn's performance, every moment is totally, without-a-doubt believable. I never thought "Oh, that's Sean Penn playing a character based on Harvey Milk."
Did Milk invent The Castro? And GLBT politics?
Dan White comes across as a tragic figure, and Josh Brolin's performance is masterful. We never get a sense of what Dan White is thinking, and Brolin conveys no answers. Some critics feel the movie contains strong hints that White was gay. In my opinion, it's pretty subtle. Brolin raises tons of questions about Dan White, and actually makes you feel sorry for the guy. To some extent.
Anita Bryant plays herself, glimpsed through archival film and videotape, and never do you once feel sorry for this combination of Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the East (sorry, had to insert the obligatory OZ metaphor!)
During some scenes, I flashed momentarily on where I was at the time of the real events. And in every case, where I was happened to be someplace miserable. But then the story would take over once again and transport my thinking to where I am now, the progress I've made, and the steps these people in San Francisco put in place for me to climb years later.
Although the movie has to conform to Mainstream Gay Movie Character Standards (the main one being "The Gay Character Must Die"), the finale opens up that hope that Milk ran with. Unlike the dour, downbeat ending of "Brokeback Mountain."
I think it's the first Great Gay Movie.