When I was in high school and Fast Times at Ridgemont High came out, it was the good ole boy laugh movie. All the ass hats that I disliked in high school loved this movie so I naturally disliked it. I wasn't a burn out in high school so didn't relate.
Then he hooked up with Madonna and became the bad boy of paparazzi throw downs. No one likes a star that's too uppity for their own good.
Then came Shanghai Surprise... were we surprised? no, not so much.
And while he did an OK job in that movie where his daughter is killed and his childhood friends are either accused of the murder or investigating it, he was still not on my list of actors that I liked.
I won't go on and on with a litany of what he did in the movie, but I'll sum it up with one of the best compliments I can give an actor; he made me forget that he was Sean Penn. He WAS Harvey Milk. Obviously I never knew Harvey Milk, but I've read about him, I know his story, I saw the documentary on Harvey Milk and heard his voice on a recording he made when he felt his life was ultimately in danger. If you don't know the story of Harvey Milk or even if you do, go see this movie.
So often the term "Oscar worthy" is tossed around too easily as a marketing tool. While I would love to see Sean win an award for his portrayal, the cynical side of me feels the subject matter will be a barrier. If it makes a difference to Sean, he's won an award with me. He took me into Harvey Milk's life in a very believable way and he's also on my "Like" list now. (which, let's face it, EVERY Hollywood actor is dying to be on!)