Politically, Milk opens at a perfect time. In the wake of California overruling the legality of gay marriage, this Sean Penn vehicle will receive more attention than it would have previously.
Thanks to a great performance by Penn, however, along with a script that remains true to the real story, Milk would be receiving buzz for its Oscar status anyway.
The most noteworthy aspect of the film is that it brings out the humanity in each of its character. Even Dan White - Harvey Milk's nemesis and eventual murderer - is seen from an understanding point of view, at times, at least.
And Milk himself is far more than a gay crusader. We see his sexuality, of course, but the film explores all aspects of the first gay man elected to public office in America. That's largely thanks to director Gus Van Sant and largely thanks to Penn, of course.
Those behind the movie obviously did their research. And supporting players such as James Franco and Emile Hirsch - in the role of Cleve Jones, who provides a consistently vibrant presence as he evolves into a crucial ally and movement leader - bring their A-game to their roles.
Milk works so well because it doesn't preach. It just lets one of the best actors of his generation tell the story of an overlooked, important figure in the history of this country.