Gus Van Sant’s biopic on Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California, is both timely and discomfiting, calling to mind currently unresolved gay rights issues, as well as flashing back to a time in pop culture many would just as soon forget. As Milk, Sean Penn gives one of the best performances of the year, and while the film makes clear what America lost with his assassination, it also gives short shrift to his personal life. Nevertheless, Milk is a reminder that the fight for the ideals its protagonist stood for is far from over. Also stars Josh Brolin, James Franco and Diego Luna. Rated R.

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