"Sean Penn’s smile lines in Milk are a wonder. They’re not crinkles, they’re furrows; they seem to stretch all the way down to his soul. As the gay activist Harvey Milk, who was shot to death in 1978 along with the San Francisco mayor, George Moscone, the volatile Penn is unprecedentedly giddy. There’s anger in his Milk, but it never festers—it’s instantly channeled into political action... he shakes off Method self-attention the way Milk shook off the shame of being gay. As the personal becomes political, he opens all the windows and gets visibly high on the breeze." — David Edelstein, New York magazineIt's the happiest I've seen him. And certainly the best reason to see the movie: come see Sean Penn happy! There were moments in Sweet and Lowdown when he seemed blissfully transported by his guitar playing, but this is different. It's not solitary, its the infectious sort of happiness that calms everyone around him, leaving his political opponents with only sour the taste of their own unhappiness, and no option but to get unhappier still. I loved Philadelphia, too, and never quite got the charge of Uncle Tommery levelled at it. Watching Milk, I understood it a little better. There's no Denzel Washington character to hold the audience's hand: this movie is solid gay, all the way through. There's barely a straight character in the whole thing, except for a superbly played Dan White (Josh Brolin) who is drawn to Milk in ominously tighter circles, with an itch he can't quite scratch.
I'm not sure what this does to my Oscar Predictions. It's always easier not to have a horse in the race. I had Di Caprio and Winslett for Revolutionary Road, Benjamin Button for best film, director, and adapted screenplay, Milk for original screenplay, Australia for costumes and cinematography, Heath Ledger for supporting in Batman and Amy Adams for Doubt. I have a feeling Revolutionary Road is going to be a worthy bore (loved the book, hated American Beauty) but the reunion of Di Caprio and Winslettt, both overdue, both now sucking up in the right way, is going to be hard for Academy voters to resist.