Gus Van Sant has never been what you'd call a risk-averse filmmaker, but he directs his Harvey Milk biopic so carefully you'd think he had a Ming vase balanced on his head. No less cautious, Sean Penn plays Milk (1930-1978), the martyred gay activist and San Francisco supervisor, with the concentration of an actor portraying the future subject of a U.S. postage stamp. Working from a detailed script by documentarian Dustin Lance Black, Van Sant streamlines Milk's life, simplifying his trajectory from closeted Wall Street zero to out-front Castro Street hero. On the eve of his 40th birthday, Milk picks up cute hippie Scott Smith (James Franco) and, after a romantic evening in tight close-up, effectively joins the counterculture, growing his hair and eloping with Smith to San Francisco. There they open the Castro Camera Shop, and an activist is born. Happy, flirtatious, paternal, Milk was able to play politics both inside City Hall and out in... More >>>