Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart has taken quite a long road getting to the big screen. Barbra Streisand tried for many years, but thankfully Ryan Murphy took over putting all of his passion into bringing it to HBO as it was well worth the wait. Murphy can be hit or miss many times, but he has scored a brilliant direct hit bringing Kramer’s heartwrenching and very angry play to the small screen, and Matt Bomer’s performance will easily earn him at least an Emmy nomination not to mention a Golden Globe.
The Normal Heart was one of the few plays that captured the AIDs epidemic back in 1985 but went further to point fingers not only at the straight community but also the repressed closeted gay community who were just as responsible for remaining just as inactive. Some of these closeted people were in high up positions of power and could have made a major impact.
For anyone who grew up in the 1980′s, it’s hard to forget hearing about the ‘gay cancer’ and then seeing the pages of Entertainment Weekly fill up with deaths of people in their twenties and thirties.
For the new generations, this film is so important to remember what happened as this could easily happen again with the same results. History sadly has a way of repeating itself, and having people like Murphy make sure we don’t forget so important. Thankfully, this isn’t the usual HBO movie made by committee (where tons of known actors are shoved into a film with just a few lines), original playwright Kramer was brought onboard to make sure his passion, memorable characters and fury came along for the ride. The anger in The Normal Heart is what made is such a shocker onstage back in 1985, and the anger Mark Ruffalo and Bomer bring makes it just as shocking and compelling.
Ruffalo portrays Ned Weeks (basically Larry Kramer) and it kicks off with the fun of Fire Island summertime crowd just before everything changed forever in the gay community. Craig (Johnathan Groff) begins coughing immediately letting us know that everything is going to escalate quickly. Years ago, studios made Longtime Companion which showed a slower pace of AIDS, but this is not the case with The Normal Heart.
Thankfully HBO didn’t make it into a mini-series as this two-hour movie crams so much of the years and politics, the viewer will feel as overwhelmed as many of us in the gay community did when it hit. A mini-series would more than likely made it feel like the AIDS crisis was a slower simmering thing, but as the film shows, the death toll rose sharply, steadily and at an alarming pace you never new if you would see your friends again the following week. It was that fast during the years when no one would speak about it, but it did drive the gay community and people like Larry Kramer to push for change. I was a member of ACT-UP and got to work with Kramer, and I’m so glad that people will get to know about this activist who wound up having many in the gay community turn against him even though he was trying to save their lives.
I’m sure some will complain that there’s too much information to take in for a two-hour movie, but that is exactly how it felt during that very dark time in our history. For me, this film captures the urgency of that period while hopefully also making some realize that the numbers have been rising again with the new generation. Hopefully there’ll be another young Larry Kramer around to squelch it before it gets out of control all over again.
There’s no happy endings with this film but it shouldn’t stop you from watching this, especially if you have teens who think things like this would never happen to them.
Source by W. C. Johnson