The Doors? Anyone? Never mind. The point being, even you, Van Sant, you can't have two title cards in one movie. Stay with the small one, it's more prestigious, and it's a slap in the face to all those watching it on older, smaller TVs, in letterbox, making it even smaller. Look at me; I must be dodging the issue here. Well, does it make me a bad person if I didn't absolutely love the movie? Yes it does. I just happen to think it's one of those four star movies that belong in the pantheon of those other four star movies that you saw once in school when you were a kid, but now that you're all growed up, haven't sat down and re-watched it with adult eyes and appreciated it anew. To Kill A Mockingbird comes to mind, as does Lawrence of Arabia, Gone With the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, what have you. Of course, film geeks in the future might lump this in with all those Westerns where white actors play Indians with makeup on. They'll say, you know, James Franco and Sean Penn weren't really gay. Guess Van Sant wanted a big name star. He couldn't get it made with, say, Mario Cantone in the lead, or Trent Dawson from As The World Turns. YGTI.
But at least the film bucks the usual trend of 70s movies. Remember, the 70s wasn't all good for everyone. It wasn't all disco and big afro hair and bell bottom trousers. We still had some serious progress to be made. As bad as today looks, at least we have Federal anti-discrimination legislation. The film probably should've pointed that out at the end, in addition to the usual What Happened to Everyone.
As for the acting, it's top drawer as you'd expect. Sean Penn IS Harvey Milk. However, the DVD doesn't have an extra feature with a clip of the actual final Milk audio tape. Must be on the Blu-Ray, but I'm sure it's exact. Franco does okay, but I don't think he'll be able to hang out with Danny McBride anymore. And Josh Brolin, I couldn't help but be reminded of his work in American Gangster, and not just because he's working again with DP Harris Savides. His Dan White is just a regular Joe like most ex-cops turned politicians, trying to cope in a changing world that he's a little too stiff to understand. The uncool Dan Whites of the world, longing to fit in with the cool Harvey Milks. And for once, a film gives voice to that tiny minority who can legislate their own pay raises, because, let's face it. The power's okay, but it's at a lower level on the Totem pole and it still don't pay the bills! Here's hoping that 2007 wasn't to Josh Brolin what 2001 was to Josh Hartnett. No, I have a feeling Brolin's work will be a little steadier than that. Oh, and a shout out to the new Ellen Page, and her name is Alison Pill. Good name. And she's far from a pill in this movie, lemme tell ya. Look out, Anna Paquin, 'cuz she's got your number, too!
And I'm sure I would be remiss as a renowned film scholar if I didn't say that this was the film that Gus Van Sant has been leading up to his whole career, whether he knew it or not. The gay Mississippi Burning, if you will, or close enough to it. Although I bet he had to tone down all the dudes makin' out. I didn't see the deleted scenes, but there was probably more plot stuff there anyway. I'll confess it's not what I usually see, although it is on some of the soaps now, to be fair. I mean, I like making out as much as the next guy, but sometimes in life you gotta run for office instead. And you gotta give people hope, and give people like Anita Bryant hell.
-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan