Milk Is Worthy But Not Great

"Milk is a hagiography," David Edelstein writes in New York magazine, "but there's nothing wrong with that if you believe … in the gospel of Harvey Milk." Milk is director Gus Van Sant's latest, a bio-pic of Harvey Milk, the gay-rights activist who was assassinated in 1978. Milk's makers want their hero "to inspire future activists," a goal that's "laudable," Edelstein says, but "doesn't make for great drama." Sean Penn, as Milk, is "unprecedentedly giddy" (that's a good thing), but Edelstein thinks the filmmakers should have chosen an earlier beginning than Milk's coming out, "because the 'Before' picture (Milk among the straights) would give the 'After' more weight. Milk is one of the most heartfelt portraits of a politician ever made—the man himself remains just out of reach."