The Normal Heart

I recorded and watched the film version of Larry Kramer’s powerful play The Normal Heart last night on HBO.  Often times a play doesn’t translate all that well to film — long speeches that become agonizing when it’s not live, static staging, but this worked very well.  Even some of the long speeches worked because it’s people pouring out their fear and frustration.  There was even voice over which I didn’t hate.  I usually fine it intrusive as hell, but since the main character, Ned, is a writer it felt like him composing to himself, and god knows I talk out loud when I’m working on a scene.  The direction was a bit hysterical at points, but the cast was so good and the dialogue so powerful that it didn’t bother me all that much.

The cast was phenomenal.  I fell in love with Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers.  I know this sounds weird, but he humanized The Hulk in a way that was very touching, and he was amazing in this film.  He played a gay man with a delicate touch, not the least bit cliched.  Matt Bomer as his love interest was also pitch perfect.  We watched a couple fall in love in a romance that was the equal of any hetero couple ever presented on film.  Jim Parsons was an anchor to this piece.  The man keeping track of the dead on, as he says, cardboard tombstones.  Alfred Molina turned in another elegant and nuanced performance as Ned’s straight brother trying to love and understand his sibling.

As I watched last night it reminded me of a book I read about the great conductors.  The author made the point that a generation of great musicians “went up in ashes” in the German camps in the nineteen-forties.  AIDS did the same thing forty years later.  A generation of writers, composers, dancers, artists were lost to this disease.  What plays, books and songs didn’t we get because of this scourge?  The tag at the end pointed out that since the appearance of the virus 36 million people worldwide have died.  One has to ask who might have been saved if almost six years hadn’t passed before anyone began to take this disease seriously.

3 Responses to The Normal Heart

  • Laurie Mann says:

    We were traveling back from ConQuest last night so I missed everything. Was able to watch Mad Men last night, which was terrific. Oddly, I couldn’t find The Normal Heart OnDemand today, but it will be back on HBO tonight. Been a fan of Mark Ruffalo for years; got to see him work a little on Foxcatcher (which won Best Director at Cannes last weekend!!!).

  • Cordelia says:

    I agree that the cast was amazing. My friend said it was the first thing she’d ever liked Julia Roberts in! My only problem was I felt it was more a history lesson than a movie. I kept wanting to know where it was going…and ultimately I didn’t feel it really got anywhere. I loved the way they structured the movie Milk; by starting the movie with the press conference about his death, immediately followed by a scene with Harvey stating that he was 40 years old and he hadn’t done anything he was proud of, I felt that it made the movie incredibly uplifting. In fact, my mother had avoided going to see Milk because she was afraid it was going to be a downer but loved the uplifting message of it. Perhaps the message of The Normal Heart was just that people are dead because the government were jerks, but I didn’t really feel any story arc in that. Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t cry, but I felt like, with a better structure, it could’ve made even more of an impact. Just my two cents. 🙂

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Really good point, Cordelia. I think I filled that in for myself without realizing I was doing it. For me the movie was a love story about a man who is abrasive and difficult, who pushed people away, but when he found the love of his life he committed totally. That the commitment in his personal life was echoed by the commitment in his public life and his fight for acceptance of the gay community. But it probably wasn’t on the screen. I was brushing that in myself. I did like the little marriage ceremony at the very end. A ceremony that had no meaning in 1983, but is now a reality for gay and lesbian people. It was a promise, if you will. In some ways a tag about how many states allow gay marriage now rather then just a slam against Reagan (not that he didn’t deserve it), and how many people worldwide have died. Though I do think that was very important to get the statistics out there.

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