Sean Penn is a great actor. And his beautiful and couragous portrayal of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk deservedly won him an Oscar. But the overlong Oscar-winning screenplay does not impress – at two hours it feels like three.
It all starts well with a couple of nice shots by director Gus Van Sant but eventually deteriorates into an endless stretch of disinteresting and unsuspenseful events which don’t add much. I also have a hard time seeing why Josh Brolin deserves an Oscar-nomination. He was great as Bush in W but does a very mundane job here. When Brolin tries to act drunk he doen’t even come close to nailing it; it’s just poor and flat acting technique that is far too restrained. It’s neither fun nor believable.
So why is that this below average film has gotten such good reviews? Maybe beacuse reviewers are having a hard time seperating the actual historical events -which are touching- from the filmic representation of them -which is neither interesting, original nor entertaining. As someone wrote in the user comments at metacritic: If it wasnt for Sean Penn’s performance, this film would be unwatchable.
Let’s not forget what Harvey Milk did for the gay movement: it was extremely important and deserves high praise. But that doesn’t keep this film from being rubbish.