Shamefully, I didn't know who Harvey Milk was when this film was released. Although, I must say, it certainly made the ending a lot more surprising. :o I think there's a few interesting aspects to this movie. One of which is how Milk operated to begin with. The film is fairly honest and upfront about Milk's tendencies and occupation with creating headlines. He's a little manipulative in some ways. Not that it's bad, he just seemed to be very good at stirring up controversy and knowing what to do when it came knocking. Penn plays it off as a little smug, knowing. Not really malicious, but someone who knows how the media and the system works. Like how he defuses brings a march to City Hall and then setting himself as a pacifier. He's sly. The movie acknowledges this. But it makes Milk constantly seem in control. His struggle is always progressing forward. It never seems like things are not going to go his way. I think that's why it's so surprising when Dan White murders him and the Mayor. Especially since White was not firing the shots as much because their ties with Homosexuals but more because he was seeking vengeance. I guess, the movie seems to be aiming to be a little more epic than it really was. It's really a very hopeful story, and I'm nitpicking. I guess I felt a little thrown a little bit. Milk never seems to be the figure the movie wants him to be. His story doesn't escalate as high as the movie leads you on to believe. But the performances were great. And I'm usually not a Sean Penn fan, it's kinda surprising to watch him grin and smile. He's usually such a morose bastard. So really a very enjoyable movie even with what might be a slightly mismatched tone.
Josh Brolin and Sean Penn: Masters of the Artistic Lean