Powerful, emotional, heart-breaking, honest. HBO’s TV film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s Tony-winning play The Normal Heart, written by the play-author himself and directed by Ryan Murphy (Glee), is an emotional ride to the early days of the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus in New York as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, the gay Jewish-American founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group.
The play is autobiographical, as like Ned (played by Marc Ruffalo), Larry Kramer himself helped founding several AIDS activism groups.
The film touches the issue of the virus, its spread and the ostracism of the gay community, but also the problems that the patients and activists faced when having to deal with health care and bureaucracy. Through the brilliant performances of the entire cast, we take a look into the gay society of the early 80s and how they dealt with the crisis and their relationships; but most of all we witness the fear and cruelty that an unknown decease can bring to an entire society.
Talking about great performances, of course Marc Ruffalo delivered a great Ned Weeks, but for me the performance of Jim Parsons (who had actually played the same part on the Broadway production) stole the spotlight; especially when it’s actually the first time that I get to see him in a role other than Sheldon Cooper. He was emotional, not too over-the-top, with great Southern attitude additions.
Other actors staring in the film are Matt Bomer, playing Ned’s lover Felix, Taylor Kitsch and Julia Roberts, who plays the role of Dr. Emma Brookner a clear reference to the Dr. Linda Laubenstein, who treated some of the first New York cases the unknown disease. Finally, I thought that Jonathan Groff (mostly known through Glee), although had a small part, was amazing in his performance, showing the way that all can change in a single second.
This film stands out the other films about the early days of AIDS, as it focuses more on the tale of the bureaucratic issues and the struggle of a generation of “time bombs” asking to be heard. It did remind me a bit of Dallas Buyers Club though, not only due to the similar bureaucratic and health care issues that both films addressed, but also due to a specific scene: the touching scene when dying Felix goes to Ned’s brother –gay disapproving- lawyer to have his will written and we see him at his worst state, reminded me (at least visually) of the scene that Jared Leto’s character in Dallas Buyers Club, faces his disapproving father, forced to ask him for help at his dying moments.
An emotional, educative film that serves as a tribute to all the victims of AIDS; and for those wishing to learn more about the beginning of the disease, watch also Angels in America, the award winning 2003 HBO mini-series.
Ever since I first set foot on a cinema theatre, I knew that something magical was happening there....