While PJ and I were in NYC earlier this month, we took the opportunity to see Gus Van Sant‘s new movie, Milk, starring Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, and Diego Luna. Milk tells the story of Harvey Milk’s repeated attempts, and ultimate success, to become the first openly gay man to be elected to a major office in the U.S., San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, in 1977. Milk was also famous for having been assassinated by fellow supervisor Dan White in 1978.

Here’s the trailer:

There’s no reason to beat around the bush: I loved this movie. I’ll have to think about it a little more before definitely committing to this declaration, but it could very well be the best gay movie I’ve ever seen.

I have nothing but praise for this film. Let’s start with the film’s narrative device. It’s narrated by Milk, who tape records an overview of his life to be played if he is assassinated. I liked this device, since it helps to create a point of view and shapes our vision of Milk himself.

This device feeds into our appreciation of Penn’s performance, since it doubles his role — he’s both the present-tense narrator and the past-tense character. Penn is magnificent in this film. He’s already won an Oscar for Mystic River, which I didn’t really are for. (He should have won that year but for 21 Grams.) If there is any justice in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he’ll win his second Oscar for this role. His performance is transcendent. He beautifully captures Milk’s aspiration, energy, and humor. When he smiles as Milk, you can see why Milk succeeded in the ways he did.