The Normal Heart
Director: Ryan Murphy
Writer: Larry Kramer
Based on: Larry Kramer‘s play
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, BD Wong, Joe Mantello, Stephen Spinella, Alfred Molina, Denis O’Hare, Corey Stoll
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 13.6.2015
It’s the early 1980s and Ned (Mark Ruffalo) has had it with the sex-obsession of the gay community who celebrate their fight and their right to (physically) love whomever they want to love. By chance Ned finds out that a new illness is making the rounds among gay men, maybe a kind of cancer. Maybe even something that is sexually transmitted. Ned takes up the fight to raise awareness for it, though his calls for caution in the sex department fall on deaf ears. As the illness keeps spreading, confounding the few doctors who bother to look into an illness that mostly concerns gay men, Ned’s activism becomes more frantic, estranging him even from his co-fighters.
The Normal Heart was pretty much like I expected it to be: grand emotions and forceful pulling on heartstrings, excellent performances and a whole lot of message.
The history of HIV/Aids really is an outrageous one. The lack of interest and reaction, the slow setting in motion of things, the discrimination – I was aware of all of that before seeing the film (which doesn’t mean that it wasn’t angering to get it all again in such a neat package). What I hadn’t yet known was the reaction within the gay community and how political promiscuity had become for them, and therefore how damaging to their cause they considered abstinence, even if it was recommended for their own safety. It’s totally logical, when you think about it – I just hadn’t ever heard it quite like that before.
It’s of course difficult to pack all of that history into one film, but I thought that Larry Kramer did an excellent job condensing the many aspects and many events into a coherent play/script that showed many aspects to the story without sacrificing the characters for it.
Of course it is easy to have characters still stand apart from their political positions when you have a cast like this one. Mark Ruffalo is wonderful when he becomes righteous, as is Julia Roberts. But I also really enjoyed Jim Parsons (for once in a role where he isn’t socially clueless) and Alfred Molina, of course. Though it would have been nice to see more actors who are actually queer – as far as I know neither Ruffalo, nor Kitsch, nor Molina are.
Still the film becomes a little too manipulative sometimes and it also feels quite long. A little less of that would have very much improved it. But other than that, I really enjoyed it as it cast a new light on a story I thought I knew already.